Lawmakers elect new UMN Regent

Randy Simonson, CEO of Cambridge Technologies in Worthington, Minnesota, was elected to the Board of Regents on Thursday with 104 votes.

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Newly elected to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, Randy Simonson attends his first meeting on Friday, May 11 at McNamara Alumni Center. 

Madeline Deninger

Lawmakers elected Randy Simonson to the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents Thursday following his nomination from the floor of a joint convention.

Simonson was elected to the board’s first congressional seat with 104 votes after he was nominated by Rep. Drew Christensen, R-Savage. On Monday, a joint meeting of Senate and House higher education committees nominated Mary Davenport and Brooks Edwards to the convention. 

Simonson, who finished second to Patricia Simmons in 2015, received strong support from republican lawmakers. Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, chair of the House higher education committee, said Simonson’s experience in business and agriculture made him a strong candidate. 

“We feel good about the result,” Nornes said. “He has a strong business and [agriculture] background, which I think will serve him well on the board.” 

Simonson, who serves as CEO of Cambridge Technologies in Worthington, Minnesota, beat Davenport after one round of voting. Edwards, who was recommended to the floor alongside Davenport by Monday’s joint committee, finished third.

Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said Davenport, who currently serves as interim president of Rochester Community and Technical College, would have brought valuable experience from the Minnesota State system. Instead, he said many republicans were looking to bring someone with agriculture experience to the board. 

“I was a little surprised about [the floor nomination],” he said. “I think people like [Simonson’s] agriculture emphasis. The republicans are kind of rural-oriented, so I think there was a strong push for that.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Jim Abeler’s position. Abeler is a state senator.