Lawmakers nominate two UMN Regent candidates

Brooks Edwards and Mary Davenport will be considered by the Legislature on Thursday for election to the Board of Regents.

Madeline Deninger

The House and Senate higher education committees nominated two candidates to the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents on Monday to fill Regent Patricia Simmons’ vacant seat. 

After hearing from five candidates one final time, lawmakers decided on two finalists, Brooks Edwards and Mary Davenport. They will be considered by a joint convention of the Minnesota Legislature on Thursday. Following three rounds of voting to eliminate candidates, the committees voted to suspend the rules allowing them to nominate two candidates to the floor. 

Edwards, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, stressed his background in medicine, as well as the importance of the relationship between the University, the Mayo Clinic and other institutions. He said his experience could help the board understand how to improve the ranking of the University’s medical school. 

“I think the Regents struggle with these issues at almost any meeting, so having a health background, I would hope, would be helpful to the board,” Edwards said. 

Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, voiced support and voted for Edwards. He said the medical program is a defining feature of the University, and Edwards could help the board by bringing a new health care perspective. 

“Health care at the University of Minnesota is really critical,” Jensen said. “I’m hopeful that by Mayo Clinic sharing some of its perspective that the University might get some of its ducks in order.”

Davenport, interim president of Rochester Community and Technical College, said her experience in higher education would serve the board when finalizing the University’s strategic plan. 

Davenport previously served as vice president of academic and student affairs at Riverland Community College in Austin, Minnesota.

“I have extensive strategic plan experience,” she said. “I’ve been involved in bringing together dispersed groups … to come together in a joint state plan.” 

Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said Davenport’s experience with the Minnesota State system would help the board serve students across the state. He added lawmakers should be mindful of the gender composition of the board, which is currently comprised of nine men and two women. 

“In the rules, we are charged to address various things, including gender balance,” he said.