LITTLE ROCK — A search committee Wednesday recommended two finalists for state higher education director, including the current interim director.
The committee of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board voted during a telephone conference call to narrow the candidate list — 20 people applied — to two: Interim Higher Education Director Shane Broadway and Thomas Anderes, a professor at the University of Arizona and former president of the Arizona Board of Regents.
Before selecting the two as finalists, committee members appeared to be leaning toward Broadway because he is a former veteran state legislator, is familiar with Arkansas politics and has been a top administrator at the Higher Education Department since 2010.
They expressed concern that with the 2014 gubernatorial election just over a year away, the next governor would have the option of keeping or firing the new director.
The state Higher Education Coordinating Board hires the state higher education director, but the official serves at the will of the governor.
“We now have a governor who is term-limited and leaving office,” Arkansas State University System President Charles “Chuck” Welch said, adding that the board has “no assurance or understanding of what the new governor will expect, require, or want” in a higher education director.
The search committee would have to ask candidates why they would “want to come to a job that may not be here in 14 or 15 months,” Welch said.
Richard Dawe, president of Ozarka College, said that with no Arkansas experience, “the clear downside” to selecting Anderes would be that he would have to spend at least a year getting up to speed in Arkansas, getting to know the job, the issues and the people.
The search committee ultimately voted to recommend Broadway and Anders, and to make sure Anderes understands that a new governor elected next year will determine the tenure of the next higher education director.
If Anderes indicates he was aware of the situation and is still interested in the job, the committee will interview him and then Broadway before making a final recommendation to the board.
Broadway was named deputy director of the department in 2010 and in early 2011 he was named interim director when then-Higher Education Director Jim Purcell resigned the post to become Louisiana’s higher education commissioner.
The Legislature earlier this year changed state law regarding the job description of the department director. The changes made Broadway, who has a degree from ASU, eligible for the position.
The law was changed in response to a 2011 attorney general’s opinion that Broadway was not qualified for the full-time director’s job because he did not have experience as an educator on a college campus.
The law now requires the higher education director to “demonstrate competence” in agency management or related skills.