Higher education

Two new members to join Board of Regents

Branstad nominates former lawmakers to help oversee universities

President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland adjourns a meeting of the Audit and Investment Committee of the Iowa Board of Regents in the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge in Iowa City on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland adjourns a meeting of the Audit and Investment Committee of the Iowa Board of Regents in the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge in Iowa City on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Two new faces will join the Board of Regents that oversees the state’s public universities, Gov. Terry Branstad announced Wednesday, but board President Pro-Tem Katie Mulholland will not return.

Mulholland, the only Democrat currently on the board, had applied to be appointed to another six-year term.

But governor’s spokesman Ben Hammes said Branstad seldom reappoints regents because of the length of the term.

“This gives Iowans more of an opportunity to serve on the Board of Regents,” he said, adding, “Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov (Kim) Reynolds appreciate Katie Mulholland’s service to the Board of Regents and believe she did a great job.”

Regents President Bruce Rastetter, like Mulholland and regent Sherry Bates, will see his term expire April 30.

But unlike Mulholland and Bates, Rastetter did not seek reappointment to the unpaid position on the nine-member board.

Branstad nominated Bates for reappointment because she came in as a replacement for former regent Nicole Carroll, who resigned in 2014, according to Hammes.

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“She has only served a partial term, and therefore both Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds decided to reappoint and give her an opportunity to serve a full term.”

The two Branstad recommended to replace Rastetter and Mulholland are Nancy Dunkel and Nancy Boettger — both former lawmakers.

Dunkel, of Dyersville, served as a Democrat in the House from 2013 to 2017. She was educated at Loras College and is a retired banker, her legislative biography shows.

Boettger, of Harlan, served as a Republican in the Senate from 1995 to 2015. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Iowa State University and a bachelor’s degree in education from Buena Vista College and is a retired farmer, bed-and-breakfast owner and educator, according to her online biography.

Her grandson, Ike Boettger, is an offensive lineman for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.

Under Iowa Code, the Senate has to consider the governor’s appointments within 45 days or by April 15. To be confirmed, nominees must receive two-thirds support from the Senate.

That equates to support from 34 senators, which — even with the Republican gains in the last election — means appointees need at least five votes from Democrats or an independent.

The Senate this session also must consider confirming the appointment of Mike Richards, who was named to the board on an interim basis last May after Mary Andringa resigned.

Richards, a Republican who has financial and political associations with Rastetter and Branstad, has been quiet during his first 10 months on the board. He seldom speaks during meetings and hasn’t voted against the majority on any issue.

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State law aims for party balance on the board by requiring it have no more than five members of one party. Some lawmakers have criticized the board’s current makeup as violating the spirit of the law by having five Republicans, three independents and one Democrat.

Branstad’s appointment of one new Democrat and one new Republican won’t change that.

“It would have been good for there to have been more Democrats — that would have been the right thing to do,” said Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville. But having worked with both in the Legislature, Dvorsky said, they would make “excellent” regents and are “highly respected.”

Through mid-February, the governor’s office had received applications from more than 20 people interested in serving on the board. Dunkel and Boettger both formally applied in the last few weeks, Hammes said.

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