It’s not likely to be business as usual at the Kansas Board of Regents now that Gov. Sam Brownback has made his first appointments to this extremely important board.
Friday morning, the governor appointed Kenny Wilk of Lansing, Fred Logan Jr. of Leawood and Robba Moran of Hays as new members of the nine-person board that oversees the state’s universities, community colleges and vocational-technical schools.
The governor is permitted to have the majority of the board be of his own political party and Wilk, Logan and Moran all are Republicans. The remaining six members of the board were appointed by former governors Sebelius and Parkinson, both Democrats.
Too often, in past years, governors have used a regents appointment, one of the governor’s most prestigious appointments, as a means of saying “thank you” or to repay an IOU to someone who has been helpful to his or her election campaign.
Brownback’s critics may claim he has continued this policy, but, hopefully, the three new appointees will prove to be the start of a new era that makes the regents appointment exercise far more than a political payoff.
Few individuals in the state have the knowledge of state government or as much respect from state lawmakers as does Wilk, a former member of the Kansas House. He received his bachelor’s degree from Ottawa University and worked for Hallmark Cards before retiring in 2009. He was one of the principal architects of the Kansas Bioscience Authority and is recognized as being able to recognize problems and challenges and figure out a way to address them.
There is no question that he will keep the chancellor, presidents and provosts of the state universities on their toes. He will expect top performances, will not accept weak excuses and is sure to keep the regents far better informed about what is going on at the schools under their supervision.
Fred Logan, a successful Johnson County attorney, is a former chairman of the Republican State Committee and served on the board of trustees for Johnson County Community College, one of the nation’s best. He also has been a board member of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute. He received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Indiana and, in 2009, he received that school’s Distinguished Service Award.
Robba Moran of Hays is the wife of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a longtime member of the U.S. House who was elected to succeed Brownback in the Senate. She is a graduate of William Jewell College and the Duke University law school but has not been a practicing attorney in recent years. She has been an assistant professor of business at Fort Hays State University. The Morans have two daughters, Kelsey, who graduated from Kansas State University, and Alex, who is a student at Kansas University.
These three appointees will bring new energy and commitment to the board and are sure to get the message across to the remaining six members that the governor is expecting more positive actions and performance from this board. Board members have been in the dark on too many important situations in recent years.
Brownback has been upfront in saying he wants to see greater excellence at the institutions the Board of Regents is supposed to be governing. He has made specific mention of the KU School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan. Postsecondary education faces many challenges, and Brownback expects the regents to implement changes and improvements necessary to upgrade the entire state system of higher education.
The terms of other regents will be coming to an end in the next several years, and those who hope to be reappointed will have to show some evidence of far more attention to the job and its responsibilities if they expect to retain their seats on the board.
Congratulations to Brownback for his appointment of Wilk, Logan and Moran. It’s a good day for education in Kansas. Educators now are on notice that top performance is expected, and Kansas taxpayers have reason to believe their dollars will be used in a more effective and efficient manner.