Searches for Iowa State, Board of Regents leadership advance

Committees plan semifinalist interviews in the coming days

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A 21-member search committee charged with sifting through the 64 candidates to become Iowa State University’s next president will interview eight semifinalists Sept. 26 and 27 at the Hilton Minneapolis-Bloomington in Minnesota.

The interviews will occur in closed session, although the committee will convene in open session briefly on each day to call the meetings to order and to adjourn them. The Board of Regents will livestream open portions of the meetings on its website.

An agenda for the two-day meeting has the committee interviewing two candidates before lunch and three candidates after lunch on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the committee is scheduled to interview the remaining three candidates before lunch, and then regroup in closed session after lunch to evaluate the semifinalists and choose finalists.

Those finalists — the committee expects three or four — will be invited to the Iowa State campus Oct. 5-10, according to a preliminary timeline. The finalists will be asked to participate in town hall-style discussions during those visits, where members of the public will have the chance to ask questions.

The full Board of Regents is planning to meet Oct. 23 to conduct final interviews with the top prospects and choose a new ISU president.

That person will succeed Steven Leath, who left Iowa State in May to become president of Auburn University in Alabama.

This presidential search is the board’s third since 2015 — it hired University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld in fall 2015 and University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook in December 2016.

The board also is in pursuit of a new executive director, since Bob Donley left in July after nine years heading the board office.

That search process is proceeding as well, with the board’s governance and evaluation committee planning to meet Friday to interview five semifinalists for the job. All those interviews will occur in closed session.

Donley, when announcing his departure, said a recent change in board leadership and family on the East Coast made now the right time to take leave. But he also noted the $154,300 salary cap for the position — imposed by the Legislature — makes it among the lowest-paid jobs of its kind in the country.

He suggested before he left, “The board is going to have to deal with that.”

Board of Regents State Relations Office Keith Saunders has been serving as the board’s interim executive director — making $200,000 in the temporary gig, which is $50,000 more than his previous pay and $45,700 above the cap.

Board officials said Saunders is allowed the higher pay because an interim executive director is not subject to the salary cap, according to an Iowa Attorney General opinion.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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