Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sun, April 18

Some upset over Governors appointee to ABOR

Some rural Arizona representatives say they are disappointed that Governor Janet Napolitano did not select a rural resident to fill a seat on the Arizona Board of Regents, but one of the appointees, former US Senator Dennis DeConcini, says he feels he can adequately represent the needs of rural Arizonans.

The governor this week appointed DeConcini and former Del Webb president Anne Mariucci to serve eight-year terms, replacing Chris Herstam and Jack Jewett, whose terms expire in January. The State Senate must confirm the appointments.

The Arizona Board of Regents oversees the state's three universities, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona State University in Tempe, and the University of Arizona in Tucson. The board has not had a representative who lives and works in rural Arizona since Flagstaff board member Kay McKay's term expired in 2004. A voting student member, Wes McCalley, from NAU, finished his term in summer 2005.

State Senate President Ken Bennett said that while he doesn't dispute the qualifications of DeConcini or Mariucci, he is disappointed that the governor did not choose applicants from rural Arizona.

"I have a lot of respect for the two nominees. I'm sure their qualifications are well established," Bennett said, "but that still doesn't eliminate the frustration that there are lots of qualified people in rural Arizona. Someone from rural Arizona could and should be on that board."

DeConcini said that he spoke with Bennett Wednesday and assured him that he intends to keep the needs of rural Arizona in mind when he takes his seat on ABOR in January. He added that educational outreach programs into rural communities are an important part of Arizona's university system, and he wants to use his past experience to help find money to support those programs when he is on ABOR.

"The biggest problem is resources, no matter if it's metro or rural," he said. "It's extremely tight. Access to the universities is important for all of Arizona. I hope some of my knowledge of Federal and state government will give me opportunities to assist the universities in their funding and grant capabilities."

In a statement today, Northern Arizona University President John Haeger said he believes both ABOR candidates will serve Arizona well.

"The DeConcini name is synonymous with Arizona. His knowledge of the state and higher education issues make him an excellent choice. Anne Mariucci's impressive resume speaks to the business acumen and leadership she will bring to ABOR," he said.

Efforts to reach Mariucci by press time were unsuccessful.

Former Northern Arizona University President Dr. Gene Hughes said he is hopeful that DeConcini's past support of NAU and present board member Ernie Calderon's ties to rural Arizona will keep the university's needs in the forefront.

"I'm not really surprised about the appointments. The power of Phoenix and Tucson continues to show itself. The good thing is that the governor has continued to be very supportive of NAU in terms of budget requests and those kinds of things. I think she will continue that, even if there is not a rural regent," he said. "We have to continue to rely upon Ernie Calderon to express the rural viewpoint. He does understand it very well."

Calderon, a Phoenix lawyer, has been an ABOR member since 2004. He is an NAU graduate who grew up in Morenci. In an interview earlier this fall, Calderon was adamant that he is a strong advocate for NAU, because of the opportunities and education he received there.

While Calderon said he would welcome another rural representative on the board, he feels ABOR has adequately represented rural Arizona educational interests. He said he spends an average of one day per week in Flagstaff, and 25 hours per week minimum on university issues.

"I'd clearly love to see someone from rural Arizona on the board, but I'm waiting for someone to show me how it would be different," he said. "I think the regents we have on the board now are bending over backward to do rural Arizona justice."

Governor's Office spokesperson Pati Urias said rural residents should not perceive the appointments as an oversight to non-metro Arizona. She cited Governor Napolitano's appointment of NAU President John Haeger to the Governor's Committee for Teacher Quality and Support, and her recent appointment of Prescott's Bill Feldmeier to the Arizona Department of Transportation Board as an example of rural Arizonans serving in a state capacity.

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