As it has every other year since 1851, the Minnesota Legislature elected four regents to the University’s governing board on February 22. Incumbents David McMillan (B.A. ’83–UMD, J.D. ’87) and Darrin Rosha (B.S. ’90, B.A. ’91, M.P.A. ’93, J.D. ’96) were reelected to six-year terms for the state’s Eighth and Third Congressional Districts, respectively. Former regent Steve Sviggum won the Second District seat and General Mills CEO Ken Powell was elected to the board’s at-large position. As stipulated by state law, their terms began immediately following the vote.
Rosha is an attorney with Rosha Legal Group in Orono and corporate counsel for Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan. A lieutenant colonel in the Minnesota Army National Guard, he currently serves as a military judge. Rosha previously served as an at-large student regent from 1989 to 1995, winning election as a junior in the then College of Agriculture. He lives in western Hennepin County with his wife Valorie and their three children.
Powell is chairman and chief executive officer of General Mills, where he has served in a variety of positions since 1979. He serves on the board of directors for General Mills, Medtronic, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Greater MSP, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the Minnesota Business Partnership. Powell received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard and an M.B.A. from Stanford University. He lives in Golden Valley, is married, and has two adult children.
Sviggum is a farmer and former Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives. He also served as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and Commissioner of the Department of Management and Budget. He served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1979 to 2007 and was communications director for the Minnesota State Senate Majority. Sviggum was an adjunct professor and Legislative Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School. He was first elected to the Board of Regents in 2011 but resigned when he accepted a position with the Minnesota Republican caucus. Sviggum is currently on the board of directors for Security State Bank of Kenyon. A graduate of St. Olaf College with a degree in mathematics, Sviggum and his wife Debbie have three adult children and 11 grandchildren.
McMillan is executive vice president of Minnesota Power, where he has served in a variety of roles since 1989. McMillan has extensive board experience, previously serving as the board chair of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Natural Resources Research Institute, the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, and Goodwill Industrial Vocational Enterprises. Active in his community, he is a past member of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center’s Board of Directors and the Board of Directors of St. Luke’s Hospital.
The selection process
While the State Legislature is the final authority for electing regents, in 1988 it established a 24-person citizen advisory body called the Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC). The RCAC’s mandate is to recruit, screen, and recommend to the Joint Legislative Committee of the Senate and House Higher Education Committees at least two and not more than four candidates. The Joint Legislative Committee in turn forwards four finalists to the Legislature but is not bound to accept the recommendations of the RCAC. Rather, it may nominate and consider candidates who have not been through the RCAC’s screening process. Likewise, the Legislature may nominate other candidates from the floor of the joint legislative convention during the final vote.
This year, the RCAC received 36 applications for the four open positions, selected 17 for interviews, and subsequently recommended 12 to the Joint Legislative Committee. Those 12 participated in a regent candidate forum attended by about 100 people at the State Capitol on January 28 hosted by the Alumni Association at the RCAC’s request.
The Joint Legislative Committee’s finalist recommendations were McMillan, Rosha, and then-regent Tom Devine (B.E.S. ’79), all of whom had also been recommended by the RCAC, and Steve Sviggum, whom the Joint Committee nominated. Powell, who participated in the RCAC’s process, was nominated from the floor of the joint convention during the final vote.
To learn more about the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, go to rcac.leg.mn.
The Alumni Association’s role
In a statement on October 22, 2016, the Alumni Association Board of Directors affirmed its vested interest in ensuring that the Board of Regents is composed of highly qualified, mission-driven leaders who are committed to the long-term success of the University as a world-class research institution. The UMAA does not lobby for or endorse individual candidates, though alumni leaders and volunteers may individually recruit other alumni to apply.
The statement said the Association is uniquely positioned to help identify a diverse and qualified candidate pool. “The UMAA believes that an open, transparent process where qualifications are developed and vetted is critical to finding the best leaders from across the state. The UMAA promotes the availability of position openings regardless of whether there is an incumbent regent eligible for reappointment in that role,” the statement read. To this end, the Alumni Association collaborated with the RCAC to assist with communications regarding open regent positions, regent qualifications, and the application process. The Alumni Association’s participation in the selection process culminated at the January 28 regent candidate forum.