Three of four nominees for the board that governs Iowa, Iowa State and UNI testified before the Iowa Senate’s Education Committee Tuesday afternoon. Former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell and businessmen Jack Evans of Cedar Rapids and David Miles of West Des Moines all promised to do their best to hold down tuition and find the best-qualified person to lead the University of Iowa and elminate any secrecy surrounding board actions.
Campbell promised to try to move beyond the controversies that have surrounded the current Board of Regents. "I have a lot of confidence in my own people skills," Campbell told lawmakers. "I will work harder than I have ever worked to assure that the Regents gets on track and serves the people of Iowa in the way that we all expect."
But some Republicans say they’re concerned no one from western Iowa will be on the board if Governor Culver’s nominees for the Board of Regents are confirmed by the Iowa Senate. One Senator even jokingly asked Jack Evans if he’d be willing to move back to the northwest Iowa farm in Sac County where he grew up.
"I am proud to say that I stay in close connection with that part of the state," Evans told the Iowa Senate committee. "We still have the family farm, with no intent of selling." But some Republican senators say Governor Culver should withdraw one of his nominees and consider naming a western Iowan instead.
Culver has no intention of following that path. "I feel great about the four candidates that I’ve sent up for confirmation to the Board of Regents. We have a terrific mix in terms of diversity," Culver says. "Most importantly, arguably, is we have the first Iowa State University graduate that’s been named to the Board of Regents, I believe, since 1987 in Craig Lang who happens to be a Republican (and) president of the Iowa Farm Bureau."
Culver, who is a Democrat, also has nominated Jack Evans of Cedar Rapids — another Republican — to serve on the board, and Culver points out the farm where Jack Evans grew up was in northwest Iowa. Culver’s other two picks for the board are Democrats — former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, a co-chair of Culver’s gubernatorial campaign and David Miles of West Des Moines, the chief financial officer of a company that manages ethanol plants.
"We have a terrific group of nominees," Culver says. "I stand by them 100 percent and I expect they’ll be confirmed." The Board of Regents has been under fire for failing to find a new president for the University of Iowa. Republican critics say none of the new Democratic governor’s choices for the board have any experience in the medical field and the board plays a major role in governing the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
On Tuesday afternoon, however, the Senate Education Committee approved three of Culver’s four nominees for the board — all but Lang. Only one member of the panel — a Republican — voted against the nominees. Lang will appear before the committee next week. With 30 Democrats in the Senate, it’s likely just four Republicans are needed to join with the Democrats to approve the four new members of the Board of Regents.