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Brede to oversee vetting of U of M Board of Regent candidates

Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede will play a key role in helping fill five seats on the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents.

Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede will play a key role in helping fill five seats on the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents .

Brede is chairman of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council . The group has already begun accepting applications for the board positions. Among the vacant seats is the one representing Minnesota's First Congressional District, which spans southern Minnesota.

Mayo Clinic Dr. Patricia Simmons is finishing her second six-year term and won't seek a third term. Brede said this seat's opening comes at a critical time as the newly-established University of Minnesota — Rochester continues to grow.

"The regents can set the direction of the whole university," Brede said.

Other open seats include those for the fourth, sixth and seventh congressional districts. A fifth position is also being filled in the Third Congressional District following the recent death of Regent David Larson. That term would expire in 2017. There are a total of 12 seats on the Board of Regents, which is the governing body of the University of Minnesota and its five campuses, including UMR.

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Brede will oversee a 24-member committee that will review applications and interview candidates for the five seats. The committee is then required to recommend between two to four candidates for each position and then forward those recommendations by Jan. 15 to a joint legislative committee. Members of the legislative committee will make their selection for each seat and then forward the recommendations to a joint convention of the Legislature for final approval. Applications are being accepted until Dec. 5. The council plans to conduct interviews Jan. 5 to 9.

The appointment of regent candidates can often get political. In 2011, former Republican Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum was appointed to the Board of Regents. He later took a job as communications director for the Senate Republicans and was pressured by fellow regents to resign in 2012 amid conflict-of-interest concerns.

Brede said the goal of the council is to keep things as nonpartisan but it can be difficult to keep politics out of the process.

Winona DFL Rep. Gene Pelowski is a member of the advisory council. He said there's a long history on both sides of the aisle of the regent appointment process being politicized. In recent years, House and Senate leadership have avoided appointing lawmakers to the council. But this year, some lawmakers, including Pelowski, will get a chance to ask the candidates questions. The Winona Democrat said he believes that actually will help curb the politicization.

"I think if some of these (regent candidates) are purely partisan, this is the time to bring it out," Pelowski said.

When it comes to the candidates, Pelowski said he will want to know what their position is on freezing tuition and their understanding of the university's budget.

"The regents should be fiduciary overseers of the U's budget," he said. "They should be accountable with the president and others on how that budget is presented and developed."

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