Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature

Four University of Minnesota regents chosen by joint House/Senate convention

Newly elected University of Minnesota Regents Janie Mayeron, from left, Mike Kenyanya, Kao Ly Ilean Her and Mary Davenport gather to speak with the media after being chosen by a joint convention of the Legislature May 9. Photo by Paul Battaglia

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.

Students on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus. House Photography file photo

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.

Election of Regents to the University of Minnesota 5/9/19

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.

Related Articles

Priority Dailies

Socially distant but emotionally resonant — retirement speeches highlight friendships, look to future
Monday afternoon marked the end of the 2020 regular legislative session, and the retirements of more than a dozen representatives, who thanked family, House staff, mentors, and friends – especially those in the Legislature.
State of the State: Walz urges Minnesotans to stick together during troubling time
During his annual State of the State address Sunday evening, Walz warned that darker days lie ahead as Minnesotans brave the COVID-19 virus that’s reached across the world and currently has North America in its grip.

Minnesota House on Twitter