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Legislature chooses new regents
Lawmakers on Monday confirmed nine of the University of Minnesota's 12 regents in their posts, including three new faces. Former DFL Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe did not make the cut after he withdrew his name from nomination over the weekend. Some Democrats have complained that Moe's rejection was a political move by Republican legislators. But the new crop of regents say they're ready to put the selection process behind them and confront the challenges faced by the university.

St. Paul, Minn. — Moe was recommended by the Regents Candidate Advisory Council, and had the endorsement of lawmakers from the 7th Congressional District in western Minnesota. But that wasn't enough to overcome the Republican tilt in the Legislature.

On a straight party-line committee vote last week, GOP members backed Clyde Allen, Jr., of Moorhead for the regent position. Allen received final confirmation on a vote in which many Democrats abstained. Allen says he's satisfied with the selection process.

"The large number of abstentions on the 7th District vote are partly in recognition of Senator Moe's 32 years of service," Allen said. "You know, he was well-known and did a lot of good things. I'm sorry we couldn't both be there because, as a matter of fact, we're both good, personal friends."

Moe withdrew his name from consideration over the weekend, and scored only two votes to Allen's 130. Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, co-chaired the joint House-Senate committee that rejected Moe last week. He says he's concerned that despite Moe's decades of public service, he was pushed out of the running.

"I think it's regrettable that there were still such strong feelings that Republicans couldn't support somebody who, I think, had proved over time that he was a statesman and would be able to act in the best interest of the state as a member of the Board of Regents," Kelley said.

In addition to Allen, lawmakers selected Patricia Simmons of Rochester and John Frobenius of St. Cloud to sit on the board. They also re-appointed David Metzen of Sunfish Lake to his seat. Metzen says there's no reason to think the process this year was any more contentious than usual. He says he's confident the new board will set aside any differences and concentrate on the university's future.

"It feels very political sometimes when you're over here," Metzen said. "Having been on the board for six years, I can't even tell you who are Democrats or Republicans. We've just got to try to do what's best for the university. And it's -- once we're over there, I think that we leave our party labels at the door and just work hard to do what's right."

Four members previously appointed by former Governor Jesse Ventura and serving since last year were also confirmed. They include Peter Bell, Frank Berman, Richard McNamara, and student regent Lakeesha Ransom. A round of musical chairs denied Jean Keffeler her at-large seat. That position was given to Regent Maureen Reed who had been bumped from her previous 6th Congressional District seat by the selection of newcomer Frobenius. With the new appointments - and the finalization of Ventura's slate - Metzen says the board has a new stability. Rep. Barb Sykora, R-Excelsior, was the lead House member on the House-Senate selection committee. She says solidifying the board's membership is important as university wrestles with upcoming budget discussions.

"I think it's very important at this time because the university is facing like all of us, all kinds of budget issues. And I think it's very important that we have good, strong people on that board," Sykora said.

The university is expected to face a tight budget situation in coming years. It has already seen its budget reduced in previous rounds of fiscal tightening. And Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed a further 15 percent cut in state aid to the university in the next round of deficit-reduction.

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