Georgia university regents pause search for new chancellor
ATLANTA (AP) — The regents who oversee Georgia’s 26 universities and colleges said Thursday that they are pausing a search for a new leader, making it likely that the system will choose an interim leader if outgoing Chancellor Steve Wrigley retires on time at the end of June.
The move comes amid public opposition to the prospect that former Republican governor and U.S. agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue might be named to lead the 340,000-student system.
“We value the input received from faculty, staff, students, and community leaders throughout this process and want to ensure we meet the expectations of this challenging, yet critically important time in higher education,” the 19-member board said in a statement attributed to all of them. ”As we pause to reflect and determine our next steps, please be assured we remain dedicated to our vision of creating a more educated Georgia.”
It’s unclear when the search might resume or under what terms. An outside search firm has been assisting. And a lack of a chancellor could also delay selections of new presidents for six schools that now or will soon have vacancies — Georgia State University, Georgia College and State University, Kennesaw State University, Clayton State University, Savannah State University and Georgia Highlands College.
The chancellor is both an administrator and a politician who deals with the governor, lawmakers and regents. Wrigley and previous chancellor Hank Huckaby both fit that bill with experience inside the university system and working for governors. Perdue has the politics part in spades and has run large organizations, but hasn’t had a formal role in higher education since he graduated as a doctor of veterinary medicine in 1971.
Huckaby and Wrigley were both hired from inside the state. Before that, regents had two decades of chancellors hired from out of state.
Wrigley had been vice chancellor since 2011. Regents moved Wrigley into the top job as interim chancellor in 2016 and then gave him the job permanently in 2017 with the support of then-Gov. Nathan Deal.
There’s been no official confirmation of Perdue’s candidacy, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported he was the favorite, citing anonymous sources. A group called Students Against Sonny launched last week, promoting a petition urging regents to reject him. Critics say he had a bad record as governor of reducing student access to higher education.
Perdue’s tenure as agriculture secretary in President Donald Trump’s administration and his efforts to help Trump fight his 2020 electoral loss to Democratic President Joe Biden could also prompt questions. But a few regents appointed by Perdue remain on the board and he might be an attractive choice to Gov. Brian Kemp. Governors often get strong input into the hiring of chancellors.