COUNCIL BLUFFS — As a senior member of Iowa’s Board of Regents — with two years left to go — Larry McKibben on Thursday announced a 10-day campaign to become the board’s next president.
The board — which on April 30 is to lose President Bruce Rastetter and President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland when their six-year terms expire — is scheduled to hold a special meeting May 1 to elect new leadership.
McKibben said departure of the board’s most senior leaders required someone to step up.
“I haven’t had any other colleagues that have come out publicly and say that they were willing to lead this,” McKibben said about why he announced his intentions at a Board of Regents meeting in Council Bluffs. “All of a sudden, when you have a vacuum ... somebody has to fill the vacuum.”
He called these next 10 days “very, very important for the Board of Regents,” which is facing massive cuts in state support, a last-minute proposal to increase tuition and an impending search for a new Iowa State University president, among other things.
McKibben, cited his experience both in the Iowa Senate and on the board as benefiting him in the potential role as board president.
“The legislative experience I bring to the board table will be of value in dealing with the related issues we face,” he said.
Before he became a regent in 2013, McKibben served as a state senator from 1997 to 2008.
If elected by his eight fellow regents, McKibben will succeed Rastetter, who touts accomplishments including maintaining a cooperative relationship with lawmakers that allowed the board to freeze tuition for nearly three years; presidential hires that have led to enrollment growth at Iowa State and innovation at University of Iowa; and an efficiency review that has saved the campuses millions.
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But Rastetter’s time also was marred by controversy, including over a funding proposal he backed that would have tied state support to resident enrollment and could have yanked tens of millions from UI. His potential conflicts also have been questioned — Rastetter is a major political donor both in Iowa and nationally, contributing heavily to Gov. Terry Branstad and encouraging him to run for governor for a second time in 2009.
When asked about his relationship with the governor on Thursday, McKibben said, “I believe this needs to be an apolitical organization.”
“This should not be about politics,” he added. “This should be about children, families, high-quality education.”
Regents Milt Dakovich and Subhash Sahai, who was absent for this week’s meeting, have been on the board as long as McKibben — although neither have publicly expressed interest in taking on the presidency.
Nancy Dunkel and Nancy Boettger — both former lawmakers, like McKibben — recently were confirmed to join the board May 1. The senate also recently confirmed Sherry Bates, who stepped in midterm in 2014, for her first full term on the board and Mike Richards, who started on the board on an interim basis last year after Mary Andringa resigned.
McKibben praised the crop of freshman and sophomore regents, but suggested they need two years to gain solid footing as a regent.
“There’s a learning curve,” he said.
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