New UA Board appointments will leave Northwest Arkansas without representation | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New UA Board appointments will leave Northwest Arkansas without representation

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 1:47 PM

click to enlarge NO ONE WILL LIVE NEARBY: On the UA Board next year.
  • NO ONE WILL LIVE NEARBY: On the UA Board next year.

Yesterday, Gov. Hutchinson appointed Sheffield Nelson and Kelly Eichler to the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees. Nelson, of course, is a former chair of the state Republican Party and two-time Republican candidate for governor. Eichler worked in the Huckabee administration, lost a state House of Representatives race to John Edwards and now serves as Hutchinson's policy director.

It's certainly not unprecedented for a governor to appoint political allies to key state boards. Former Gov. Mike Beebe named his long time friend and chief of staff, Morril Harriman, and Sen. David Pryor to the UA Board.

According to statute, the Board is supposed to be made up of 10 members — two from each congressional district and two at-large members.

1st: Ben Hyneman (Jonesboro), Mark Waldrip (Moro)
2nd: Reynie Rutledge (Searcy), Morril Harriman (Jonesboro), Jane Rogers (Little Rock)
3rd: David Pryor (Fayetteville, sort of, see below), Jim von Gremp (Rogers)
4th: John Goodson (Texarkana), Stephen Broughton (Pine Bluff), Cliff Gibson (Monticello)

I'm not sure who the current at-large trustees are. I've got a note into J.R. Davis, the governor's spokesperson. Eichler is replacing Jane Rogers and Nelson is replacing Jim von Gremp. Both will join the board March 2016.

But earlier Davis confirmed that Nelson will be the at-large appointee and Harriman will become a 3rd District representative "as a long time resident of Crawford County." Harriman lived in Van Buren for years and represented the area in the state legislature. But he lives and works in Little Rock now.  

Moving trustee designations around has precedent. When John Tyson resigned from the board, Beebe replaced him with Reynie Rutledge and made David Pryor a 3rd District rep. Pryor lives in Little Rock, but has a strong connection to Fayetteville through the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History. 

But next year, because of Hutchinson's latest two appointments, the Board will not be represented by anyone who actually lives in the 3rd District. Davis said the governor was confident Harriman's connection to Crawford County met the requirements of the statute, which requires that appointees be "from" each of the congressional districts. That may be legally correct, but it certainly seems to go against the law's intent of geographical diversity. 

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