JOHNSTON — Gov. Terry Branstad on Friday defended his meeting with a new appointee to the state board that governs Iowa’s three public universities before the opening was official.
Branstad discussed the issue with reporters after taping an episode of “Iowa Press” that will appear on Iowa Public Television next weekend.
Mary Andringa on April 27 announced her resignation from the state Board of Regents, and on May 6, Branstad announced the appointment of Mike Richards, a longtime friend and political ally of the governor, to replace Andringa.
The Gazette reported Thursday that Branstad met with Richards on April 22, five days before Andringa’s resignation.
Branstad said Friday that he did not ask Andringa to resign, and he defended his meeting with Richards before the public was aware of a pending opening on the Board of Regents.
“When I heard from Mary Andringa that she was intending to resign at the end of the month, I started thinking, ‘Who would be really good?’ And I wanted somebody that I felt that the universities would respect and that would be able to represent the people of Iowa and had the right kind of temperament, could work with the other members of the board,” Branstad said. “I just felt that he would be a good choice. That’s why I invited him in for an interview.”
Branstad said he was not concerned by the optics of meeting with a potential appointee before the opening was public, even after the regents last year were criticized for holding private meetings with businessman Bruce Harreld before naming him president of the University of Iowa.
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Branstad also does not think his early meeting with Richards will jeopardize Richards’ confirmation by the Iowa Senate.
“No, I don’t see a problem because I know Mike Richards so well,” Branstad said. “I know what a great temperament he has and what a great commitment he’s got to public service.”
Branstad called Richards a “good friend” who is the godfather to the governor’s son Marcus. Branstad said he likes Richards’ experience in medicine and business. Richards is a retired physician who also worked with the Iowa Health System and now is a partner in a manufacturing business in Orange City.
“I just think the fact he’s got this medical background, got this business experience, he’s got this really good temperament,” Branstad said. “And he’s also a very dedicated individual that’s willing to put in the time that it takes.”
During taping of “Iowa Press,” Branstad said he did not ask Andringa to resign.
“She informed me before it was announced publicly that she intended to resign,” Branstad said. “She just felt it was a bigger undertaking than she wanted.”