Iowa Board of Regents news: Branstad appoints new members, Rastetter elected president

Governor Terry Branstad appointed two new members of the Iowa Board of Regents yesterday. Former State Senator Larry McKibben and construction business owner Milt Dakovic will fill vacancies created when the Iowa Senate did not confirm two of the governor’s three Regents appointees this year: Craig Lang and Robert Cramer. Branstad likes to appoint former state lawmakers to boards and commissions. He encouraged McKibben to come out of retirement to run for the Iowa Senate again in 2012, but McKibben lost the GOP primary in Senate district 36. I’ve posted more background on McKibben and Dakovich after the jump. Their appointments are subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate during the 2014 legislative session.

Lang recently finished six years of service on the Board of Regents and had been board president. Today the remaining board members chose Bruce Rastetter as the new board president. Rastetter has served as president pro-tem since the summer of 2011 and has been in frequent communication with the three state university presidents. The largest donor to Branstad’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign has also been a controversial figure as a Regent, having “blurred the line” between “his role as investor in AgriSol Energy” and his position on the board. (The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board dismissed an ethics complaint filed against Rastetter over that proposed AgriSol land deal.) Earlier this year, Rastetter asked the University of Iowa president to arrange a meeting between ethanol industry representatives and Professor Jerald Schnoor. Democrat and Linn-Mar school district superintendent Katie Mulholland will replace Rastetter as president pro-tem of the Board of Regents.

UPDATE: Democratic State Senator Jeff Danielson has already announced that he supports Branstad’s new nominees for the Board of Regents. Earlier this year, he voted against confirming Lang and Cramer.

Press release from the governor’s office, June 4:

Branstad names McKibben and Dakovich to the Iowa Board of Regents

Gov. Terry E. Branstad today named former state Sen. Larry McKibben and construction business owner Milt Dakovich (pr: “DOCK-o-vitch”) to the Iowa Board of Regents.

McKibben and Dakovich begin their terms today and will serve through April 30, 2019.

“I have chosen two passionate public servants who will help guide our Regents institutions through the next six years,” said Branstad. “Larry’s legislative expertise and Milt’s construction background will provide both of them with the knowledge and experience needed for these two seats on the board.”

“We are pleased they agreed to serve on the Board of Regents at this important time,” said Reynolds. “Larry and Milt understand the importance of this new role, and are committed to offering a world-class education for all students.

McKibben, 66, served in the Iowa Senate from 1997-2008, where he chaired the Ways & Means Committee, also serving as the president pro tem. He earned his B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa, served as a graduate teaching assistant at Iowa State University and earned his J.D. from the University of Iowa. He is currently an attorney with the firm of Moore, McKibben, Goodman & Lorenz, LLP, in Marshalltown.

“I believe education is the foundation for the growth, development and well-being of future generations of Iowans,” said McKibben. “I have spent my entire professional life as a problem solver. I believe that my educational background, leadership skills and breadth of lifetime experiences gives me the depth of knowledge and skill to contribute in a positive way to achieving high standards of educational excellence at the Regents institutions.

Find McKibben’s photo here: https://governor.iowa.gov/wp-c…

Milt Dakovich

Dakovich, 58, has a B.S. from Iowa State in both civil engineering and construction engineering. He currently serves as the president of Aspro, Inc. in Waterloo. He is a past president of both the Associated General Contractors of Iowa and the Asphalt Paving Association of Iowa.

“I am the product of Iowa public higher education and recognize its importance,” said Dakovich. “It is vital that this state have quality, affordable education. Our future workforce depends on it.”

Find Dakovich’s photo here: https://governor.iowa.gov/wp-c…

McKibben and Dakovich will be up for Senate confirmation in the 2014 legislative session.

The Iowa Board of Regents consists of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa, the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, and the Iowa School for the Deaf. For more information, visit http://www.regents.iowa.gov/ .

Diane Heldt of the Cedar Rapids Gazette spoke to McKibben and Dakovich.

His legislative background and knowledge of the budgeting process and public policy are skills he can offer to the board, McKibben said Tuesday. He attended all three of Iowa’s public universities. McKibben recalls how he was able to work his way through college and graduate with no debt, something that seems harder for students today.

“I’m interested in that, and efficiencies and looking after the students,” he said. “We have great universities in this state. I’m proud of them, and anything I can do to contribute to help make them even better from a university and student standpoint, I’m interested in.” […]

As a product of Iowa public higher education, he recognizes its importance to the state, Dakovich said. His construction background will be a strength for the board as the universities, especially the UI with flood recovery, work on numerous building projects in the coming years.

“I feel like I can have some impact there and do some good,” he said.

Statement released by Iowa Senate Education Committee Chair Herman Quirmbach on June 4:

“The Senate Education Committee will do due diligence before any vote on the two interim Board of Regents appointments made today by Governor Branstad.  We will look carefully at the qualifications of these two appointees, including their support for the core values of academic freedom and equality of opportunity and their support for providing the resources needed to maintain the high quality of our outstanding public universities and special schools.”

UPDATE: Nick Ryan, leader of the 501(c)4 political advocacy group American Future Fund, was thrilled about today’s news:

Congratulations to my friend Bruce Rastetter who was unanimously elected President of the Board of Regents today. Great Iowan & leader!

Rastetter was the American Future Fund’s key financial supporter in the early days.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement released this statement on June 5:

NEW REGENTS PRESIDENT BRUCE RASTETTER HAS NO MANDATE OR PUBLIC TRUST

Iowa Board of Regents unanimously elects scandal-ridden Bruce Rastetter as new president

Corporate-political kingpin Bruce Rastetter is the new president of the Iowa Board of Regents, but his ability to effectively lead the board is in serious doubt because there is no public trust in him to put the common good before corporate profit after months of controversy surrounding him and his predecessor Craig Lang.  Lang was removed from the board by the Iowa Senate in April over concerns about academic freedom and corporate control at Iowa’s public universities.

“Rastetter lost the trust of everyday Iowans a long time ago and a very skeptical public is going to be watching his every move as president like a hawk,” said Ross Grooters, a CCI member from Pleasant Hill.   “He’s shown time and time again that he views Iowa’s public universities as nothing more than a tool to further his own pro-corporate agenda.”

Iowa CCI members demand newly elected Regents President Rastetter publicly state whether or not he supports the accountability, transparency, and ethics reform proposals made by the citizen action group such as public comment time at every regents meeting, an end to revolving door lobbying between regents institutions and private corporations, and a clear-cut enforcement process for the Regents internal ethics policy.

“Rastetter has an extremely narrow opportunity here to change course and actually shine a light on how decisions are made at the Regents, the question is, will he take it?” Grooters said.

Join us!  The Regents Transparency Taskforce will hold their next meeting in Des Moines from 9:00am-noon.  Meet at the CCI statewide headquarters, 2001 Forest Avenue, Des Moines, at 8:00am.

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