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Published June 12, 2024

UMN regents elect co-vice chairs, discuss presidential transition

At a University of Minnesota Board of Regents special meeting Monday, members also approved the governor’s residence at Eastcliff over the next year.
Image by Photo by Maya Marchel-Hoff
The University of Minnesota Board of Regents Feb. 10, 2023 at the McNamara Alumni Center.

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents elected two regents to serve as co-vice chairs and discussed President Joan Gabel’s transition out of leadership at its special meeting Monday afternoon. 

Over the last month, University administration has seen significant changes, including Gabel’s departure from the University and former board Chair Regent Ken Powell’s resignation from his leadership position on the board.  

New board Chair Janie Mayeron assumed Powell’s position after his resignation, leaving the vice chair role vacant. 

Regents Mike Kenyanya and Doug Huebsch were elected by the board to serve as co-chairs until June 30. They were nominated by Regent Kodi Verhalen, who brought a motion to suspend the board’s bylaws to allow for the temporary creation of co-vice chair positions. The motion passed 9-3. 

Verhalen said she made the motion so that board leadership would have additional support during the University presidential transition period. 

“It will give, not only you Madam Chair, the opportunity to have colleagues in leadership, but also this board the opportunity to have full leadership at this time when we have an outgoing president and an incoming interim,” Verhalen said.  

At the special meeting, the regents initially planned to elect one member to fill the vice chair role by voting to suspend a section of the board’s bylaws. The bylaws state members need a 10-day notice of a chair’s resignation before they can elect a new vice chair. In a 7-5 vote, the motion failed. 

Before the board took a vote on the co-vice chair positions, Huebsch accepted his nomination. 

“I’ll work hard, I promise that,” Huebsch said. “I love the University of Minnesota, I’ll do whatever I can to help it along.” 

Kenyanya also accepted his nomination. 

“It’s not just in the absence of the chair, it’s supporting while the chair is there and that’s kind of what we’ve seen in this dialogue is that that’s what is needed more than ever,” Kenyanya said. 

The board will elect a permanent vice chair after June 30. 

Presidential transition plans, Gabel’s possible bonus 

The board discussed the rest of Gabel’s time at the University and how she will carry out the duties of her role in her last months as president. 

The board has not officially decided on Gabel’s last day at the University. In a special meeting Thursday, board members said her final day could be before June 9. However, during Monday’s meeting, the board discussed the interim president officially taking over on July 1. 

If Gabel stays at the University through June, she could be up for an extra $260,000, according to her contract. She would be eligible for up to $100,000 as a performance bonus and $160,000 in supplemental retirement funds. 

Regent Darrin Rosha called a motion during Monday’s meeting for the board to hire an external attorney to review the specifics of her contract as they finalize the presidential transition process. The board voted 9-3 to indefinitely postpone this motion after several board members said they felt they did not have enough information to make this decision at this time. 

The board still expects Gabel to complete a majority of her final tasks in May. 

Gabel will present a tuition pricing model to the board, along with University Provost Rachel Croson  during the board’s May meeting as well as her recommended candidate for the University of Minnesota-Morris chancellor position to the board. The board is scheduled to meet May 11 and 12. 

She will also attend the annual American Indian Advisory Board meeting on May 4 and present the President’s Recommended FY24 Operating Budget to the board’s Finance & Operations Committee during its June meeting. The board is scheduled to meet June 8 and 9. 

Governor Walz at Eastcliff 

University Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Myron Frans presented a proposal to allow Gov. Tim Walz to stay at the University’s presidential residence, Eastcliff, for a year starting July 1 while the governor’s mansion in St. Paul undergoes renovations.  

The board unanimously approved this real estate transaction.

“We have an opportunity to put this publicly owned asset to use during a time of transition,” Frans said during his presentation to the board. “This will be the first time that we will have a governor and first lady in residence at Eastcliff.” 

The rental period will be about 15 months, ending in September 2024, but there is room for the lease to be extended a few months. It will cost $4,400 a month and the state will be responsible for direct costs involving utilities, snow removal and lawn care. Rent will be significantly less than the home on Sunfish Lake, which was $330,000, that Walz initially planned to stay in. 

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