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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A West Des Moines physician and manufacturing executive recently touted with Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter as an 'Iowa kingmaker” by Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has been appointed to join Rastetter as a regent.
Gov. Terry Branstad on Friday announced Mike Richards, 68, of West Des Moines, will replace former regent Mary Andringa, who resigned last week after serving just one year, saying she 'underestimated the time required to full serve in this role.”
Because the governor's regent appointments require Senate confirmation, Richards will begin serving immediately on an interim basis, according to Ben Hammes, a spokesman for the governor's office. With the most recent Legislative session just adjourned, lawmakers won't have the opportunity to vote on Richards' appointment until next January, Hammes said.
Richards is a registered Republican, as was Andringa, maintaining the current mix of five Republicans, three independents, and one Democrat on the board, which cannot have more than five members of one party.
The Board of Regents, which is comprised of nine volunteer members who serve staggered six-year terms, oversees Iowa's three public universities and two special schools.
In 2011, Richards was on a five-person 'team” of Iowa donors - along with Rastetter - to recruit New Jersey Gov. Christie to run for president. That team reunited this year to again support Christie's bid for the White House, according to a campaign news release.
''Iowa kingmakers' who flew to New Jersey in 2011 still backing Christie for president,” was the release headline.
Richards is an 'active philanthropist,” according to Branstad's office, and he's given tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions over the years - including to Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, according to the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board.
He's also given thousands of dollars to Republicans like Christie, former New York City Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Rep. Steve King, and Larry McKibben - who also serves on the Board of Regents.
Richards earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa and a graduate degree from the UI College of Medicine before entering private practice, where he spent nearly 20 years, according to Branstad's office.
Over the years, he's served as chairman of MedTec, Inc., a medical technology company based in Orange City, chief medical officer of Iowa Health System, president and chief executive officer of the Iowa Health Physician Foundation, and chief executive officer of Iowa Physicians Clinic, P.C.
He served on committees at Iowa Lutheran Hospital, the Iowa Medical Society, and Iowa Methodist Medical Center, and he currently is vice chairman and managing partner of Quatra Composites, a carbon composite manufacturer in Orange City with more than 230 employees.
That company manufactures equipment for the aerospace and medical industry, according to the news release. It's a client of Iowa State University's Center for Industrial Research and Service, according to an ISU news release earlier this year.
He previously was president of Wild Rose Entertainment, a casino and resort venture of his longtime colleague Gary Kirke, founder of Kirke Financial Services, Inc., a business consulting and real estate development company.
Kirke, like Richards and Rastetter, was among the 'kingmakers” touted as supporting Christie's campaign in 2011 and in 2016, and he was involved with Rastetter in urging Branstad to run again for governor in 2009.
Branstad in his news release touted Richards' extensive medical knowledge and business experience as enabling him to support and advance opportunities in Iowa across disciplines and sectors, including manufacturing, gaming, alternative fuels, and medical technology.
'Richards' medical knowledge and business experience make him a great addition to the Board of Regents,” Branstad said in a statement. 'His belief in strengthening and preserving our state universities and providing affordable, world-class higher education for students will serve him well as a regent.”
Richards applied for the regent vacancy, according to Hammes, who said he might have been recommended as well. When asked whether Branstad consulted any members of the board in making this appointment, Hammes told The Gazette the governor chose Richards for his knowledge in the medical field, his UI alumnus status, and his business experience.
'That's what he thought would make a good regent,” Hammes said.
Because Richards' is replacing Andringa, his term begins Friday and runs through April 30, 2021 - as long as he receives senate confirmation.
After announcing her resignation last week, Andringa faced questions about her involvement on the board of directors for a global furniture manufacturer that landed a contract for the new UI Children's Hospital. Andringa, who began serving as a regent on May 1, 2015, has been on the board for Herman Miller since 1999.
That company was involved in a 2010 bid and contract to furnish the new hospital, and in July 2015 - after Andringa became a regent and took over as chair of the board's UIHC committee - the university extended its contract with Herman Miller, which provides Andringa more than $100,000 in compensation.
Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman said Andringa didn't know about the Herman Miller contract with UIHC and had nothing to do with its renegotiation. He said questions around her involvement with Herman Miller had nothing to do with her resignation.
Friday's appointment of Richards to replace Andringa comes as members of the UI student, staff, and faculty population continue to call for Rastetter to resign his position on the board, crying foul on a recent search process that landed Bruce Harreld as the new UI president.
Harreld was heavily recruited by Rastetter and participated in meetings with regents, the interim UI president, and search committee members - unlike other presidential finalists.
After Harreld was announced as a finalist and spoke in a contentious public forum, hundreds of UI students, faculty, and staff voiced disapproval of his candidacy and asked the board to hire any of the other three options.
The board voted unanimously to hire Harreld one day later, and he started at the helm Nov. 2. That prompted the UI Faculty Senate, along with the UI Student Government, to issue votes of no confidence in the Board of Regents.
Although many on campus have vowed to work with Harreld going forward in assuring the university's success, some continue to call for Harreld's resignation.