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House, Senate hearing recommends four candidates to serve as U of M regents

The University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus. House and Senate lawmakers recommended candidates for four open positions on the university's Board of Regents Feb. 28. (House Photography file photo)
The University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus. House and Senate lawmakers recommended candidates for four open positions on the university's Board of Regents Feb. 28. (House Photography file photo)

As Big Ten women’s basketball teams prepared for their conference tournament in Minneapolis, the field of candidates for the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents reached its final four in St. Paul on Tuesday night.

At a joint meeting of the Senate Higher Education Committee and the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee, four candidates were recommended for four open positions on the board that oversees the University of Minnesota system.

Joint House Higher Education Finance and Policy / Senate Higher Education Committee 2/28/23

The Board of Regents’ 12 members include one from each of the state’s eight congressional districts and four at-large seats. They serve staggered six-year terms without pay, and, in odd-numbered years, one-third of the board is up for election.

Concluding a multi-month process of candidate interviews and recommendations from the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, 12 finalists appeared before the joint committee, made presentations and answered questions, voicing a variety of perspectives on what they would bring to governance of the university.

By the end of the evening, the joint committee had chosen to recommend these candidates to the full Legislature:

  • Second Congressional District, Robyn Gulley;
  • Third Congressional District, Mary Turner;
  • Eighth Congressional District, Tadd Johnson; and
  • At-large seat, Penny Wheeler.

The candidates’ presentations got off to an interesting start when Dakota County Commissioner Joe Atkins (a former House member) recommended the committee vote for his opponent, West St. Paul City Councilmember Gulley. A majority of the committee obliged.

And, in an intriguing comeback story, Wheeler – the retired chief executive officer of Allina Health – received only one vote when losing out to Turner (president of the Minnesota Nurses Association) for the Third Congressional District seat on the board. But Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center) nominated Wheeler for the at-large seat and she defeated the four candidates recommended by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council.

The next step is a joint convention of the Legislature at a yet-to-be-determined date. A candidate needs a majority vote of the 201-member House and Senate to be elected to a seat. Lawmakers are not bound to vote for only the finalists presented.


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