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4 Kansas regents nominees win approval of key Senate committee

Four people won the seal of approval Thursday from a key
Senate committee to start serving on the state Board of Regents.

In a move unusual for the board’s size, Gov. Kathleen
Sebelius appointed five regents last month, subject to Senate approval.

One appointee, Jill Docking, couldn’t attend the
Confirmation Oversight Committee hearing but will be on hand next month, when
her approval is expected. She is vice president of investments for A.G. Edwards
in Wichita and was the Democratic
nominee for U.S.
Senate in 1996.

The committee also recommended the reappointment of Donna
Shank, of Liberal, vice chairwoman of the nine-member board first appointed by
Gov. Bill Graves. The terms for Shank and Docking end June 30, 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, the committee
chairman, said he didn’t expect any problem with the regents nominees being
approved by the chamber in January.

“The governor has chosen a very strong group of Kansans
to serve on the Board of Regents, and I expect strong support in the
Senate,” said Schmidt, R-Independence.

When the board meets on Sept. 19-20, it will be the first
time all members are appointees of the Democratic governor.

The committee also endorsed Joseph Harkins, of Lawrence,
for a Kansas Corporation Commission term ending March 15, 2008. He’s a 40-year veteran of state
government and former special assistant to Sebelius, focusing on natural
resources and energy issues. Schmidt expects him to win Senate confirmation.

The appointments require Senate confirmation. Committee
recommendations were needed because the Legislature isn’t in session, and it
allows nominees to start serving.

The last time five members joined the board was in 1999 when
lawmakers abolished the old board and formed a new one as they overhauled the
higher education system.

Gary Sherrer, of Overland Park,
received the committee’s endorsement. He served more than 6 1/2 years as
lieutenant governor under Republican Gov. Bill Graves, holding the No. 2 job
longer than anyone else. But he frequently clashed with conservatives in his

Questioned by the committee, Sherrer said he thought higher
education is moving in the right direction, but added it’s going to be an
ongoing challenge.

“I’m never going to be an automatic vote on
tuition,” he said. “At some point, some people might be excluded for
financial reasons, and that’s not a good statement for a state system to

The committee also approved Fort Scott Mayor Richard Hedges;
Jarold Boettcher, of Beloit, president of three companies that make
agricultural products and distribute plumbing and electrical equipment; and
Bill Thornton, of Atchison, vice president and corporate counsel for MGP
Ingredients Inc.

Terms for Hedges and Boettcher end June 30, 2011. Thorton’s ends June 30, 2010.

Schmidt said the new members are joining the board when it
is looking to what is needed for the future in higher education.

“It’s not enough to be sure you’re doing effectively
what’s always been done,” he said.

Other regents are Chairwoman Christine Downey-Schmidt, of
Inman; Dan Lykins, of Topeka; and Janie Perkins, of Garden City.

No more than five members can be of the same political
party. Downey-Schmidt, Docking, Lykins and Thornton are Democrats; Shank,
Boettcher, Perkins and Sherrer are Republicans; and Hedges is an independent.

The board overseas six state universities, Washburn
University, 19 community colleges and 11 technical institutions.

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