Gov. reveals board choices

The Legislature must fill vacant posts in the Board of Regents by the end of 2007.

Elena Rozwadowski

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his recommendations for the Board of Regents members Thursday, bringing the search for four regents one step closer to its finish.

Pawlenty recommended current regents Peter Bell and Cynthia Lesher, along with psychologist Linda Cohen and University law student Venora Hung.

Bell would continue to serve as the representative for the 5th Congressional District, while the other three candidates will fill at-large positions, including the student seat.

In a letter to Minnesota House and Senate majority and minority leaders, Pawlenty said he was “mindful of the legislative directive” to balance the needs of the board with a consideration for race, gender and ethics.

“The candidates I am recommending will contribute significantly to making the Board of Regents more reflective of the gender and racial diversity of the state and the student body,” Pawlenty said.

Regents represent each of the eight Minnesota congressional districts. Four additional board members are elected at-large, one being a University student.

Every two years, four regents’ seats are open for re-election. Applications are taken beginning in early fall before the term expires.

After the applications are submitted, the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, a 24-member committee appointed by the Legislature, reviews the applications and submits them to the governor, who has about a month to review them.

When the council made its selections in January, chair Bob Vanasek said the 145 applicants were very strong, especially the students.

“The governor can’t go wrong,” Vanasek said. “We were very pleased with the quality of the candidates that we got.”

The candidates at a glance

Candidates Bell and Lesher are current regents, but they were not selected by the council their first time around. Both were appointed to the board by the governor at the time, Bell by former Gov. Jesse Ventura in 2002, and Lesher by Pawlenty in 2006.

Bell said he chose to apply for the position again because he wants to continue to make a difference at the University.

“I think the University of Minnesota is the most important institution in the state of Minnesota,” Bell said. “If I can make even a modest contribution to the path that it’s on now, which I think is the right one, I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”

Bell is also the chair of the Metropolitan Council and has served on other boards at large corporations. In addition to his professional experience, Pawlenty said Bell, who is black, adds diversity to the board.

Lesher has been a member of the board for about a year, but Pawlenty said she “has significant experience operating a large enterprise and brings beneficial contacts with many of Minnesota’s key business partners” as the president of Northern States Power Company.

New to the board would be Linda Cohen, a psychologist and University graduate. Cohen said there are several generations of University graduates in her family.

“Education is my passion,” Cohen said. “I also believe strongly in the mission and the vision of the University.”

Cohen said she hopes to contribute to that mission in her time as a regent.

Also new to the board would be student representative Venora Hung, a second-year University law student. Pawlenty said she brings an important student perspective to the Board and adds more diversity as an Asian-American and a woman.

Next steps

In the next few months, a joint legislative committee will meet to approve the slate recommended by Pawlenty. The full committee has not yet been selected.

The final vote will be cast by the Legislature before the end of the 2007 session. The new regents will be sworn in shortly after the decision is made.