Mark one essential duty of this year’s legislative session off the to-do list.
After months of discussion, the House and Senate met in a joint convention Thursday and elected four new members of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.
The board is the only governmental body in the state whose members are elected by the Legislature. It is comprised of 12 members who serve staggered six-year terms without pay. By law, one regent is selected from each of the state’s eight congressional districts and four serve at-large.
“I’m pleased we were able to come together on a bipartisan, bicameral level to approve these regent seats that are best representative of our state,” Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-New Brighton) said in a statement. She chairs the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Division.
While five candidates were recommended for the four positions at a joint meeting of the House and Senate higher education committees in February, Thursday’s joint convention had four other candidates nominated from the floor. To be elected, candidates needed a majority vote of the 201-member Legislature. The positions chosen were for the Fifth Congressional District, a student statewide at-large seat, and two statewide at-large seats.
Elected to the Fifth Congressional District seat was Janie Mayeron, a retired United States magistrate judge from Minneapolis. Originally from St. Paul, she is the former president of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. She defeated current regent Abdul Omari, who was nominated on the floor, 103-97.
Mike Kenyanya, student body president at the Duluth campus, was unopposed for the student seat.
Born in Kenya and raised in Maple Grove, Kenyanya is scheduled to graduate on Saturday with a bachelor’s degree from the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. If the Legislature didn’t act before Saturday, there was some question as to whether Kenyanya would still be eligible for the student seat.
For the two statewide at-large seats, Mary Davenport of Mankato — who has 30-plus years of experience in academia and is a former member of the Minnesota State Board of Trustees and former president of Rochester Community and Technical College — received 150 votes. Her husband, Richard, is president of Minnesota State University, Mankato.
The final at-large seat was closely contested between two candidates.
Kao Ly Ilean Her of Maplewood, former executive director of the State Council on Asian-Pacific Americans, procured a narrow majority of the votes to become the first Hmong woman to serve on the board. She defeated Sandra Wiese of Eagan. Wiese is the senior vice president of Data Recognition Corp. and former board chair for the University’s Alumni Association.
The Regent Candidate Advisory Council, which advises the Legislature on the election of regents, received 47 applications for the four regent seats and interviewed 23 candidates.