Leg. sticks to slate for new U regents

New regents include two former state reps and a businessman.

Newly elected regent Laura Brod receives congratulations Monday evening at the State Capitol. Brod, a former state representative, was chosen over incumbent regent Steven Hunter.

Erin Westover

Newly elected regent Laura Brod receives congratulations Monday evening at the State Capitol. Brod, a former state representative, was chosen over incumbent regent Steven Hunter.

Conor Shine

Four new members âÄî including two former Republican state legislators âÄî were named to the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Board of Regents on Monday, bringing a close to the political and contentious selection process that began in November.

Former Speaker of the House Steven Sviggum headlined the list of new regents along with Laura Brod, who served in the House from 2002 to 2010. Incumbent David Larson, a Cargill executive, and David McMillan, an executive with a northern Minnesota utilities company, were also chosen.

A joint convention of the Legislature selected the four candidates, following recommendations from the higher education committees, which screened and interviewed candidates last week.

BrodâÄôs selection over incumbent Steven Hunter raised the biggest objections, with some legislators questioning BrodâÄôs eligibility for the at-large spot.

Hunter was praised as the âÄúworkhorse of the boardâÄù by Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, who opposed appointing two legislators to a board that already has a former lawmaker on it.

As secretary general of the AFL-CIO, Hunter also brought a labor perspective that has been under-represented on the board for decades. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, lamented the loss of this voice, calling it a slap to the face of working people.

âÄúDonâÄôt we have enough politicians and members of the chamber and presidents of prestigious businesses?âÄù Rukavina said. âÄúShouldnâÄôt we have a member who represents âĦ middle-class Minnesotans?âÄù

DFLers criticized the political nature of the process and moved to delay the selection to reconsider the candidates.

But MondayâÄôs vote was pushed through and largely fell along party lines, with Larson the only candidate receiving widespread bipartisan support.

Brod said she wasnâÄôt bothered by the partisan selection and predicted politics wonâÄôt have an impact on her role as a regent.

âÄúThe [DFL] had to make the points they felt they had to make,âÄù she said. âÄúThis process is long and unpredictable and unique. IâÄôm ready to be done and ready to get to work.âÄù

Republicans defended the process and said it produced four qualified candidates.

âÄúThis went through a community process âĦ and it arrives before us today properly,âÄù said Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood.

The new regents will begin their unpaid, six-year terms immediately and will participate in their first board meeting in two weeks. The board is charged with oversight of the University and approves new budgets, building plans and policies.

After the vote, McMillan stood clutching a red folder emblazoned with the UniversityâÄôs logo.

âÄúIâÄôve got my first packet of information right here,âÄù he said.

McMillan, an executive at Minnesota Power, said heâÄôd been studying the whole University during his candidacy but will shift his focus to learning the schoolâÄôs finances as it deals with likely cuts in state funding.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, McMillan said the college drew him to the area he now calls home and that heâÄôs honored to represent northeastern Minnesota.

âÄúI now have the opportunity to âĦ be part of making the U as a whole a greater place,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs absolutely wonderful.âÄù