JACKSON — Gov. Phil Bryant is nominating four people to the board that oversees Mississippi’s eight public universities, making him the first governor to appoint all 12 trustees.
The nominees include Hattiesburg radiologist Dr. Steven Cunningham; Ocean Springs businesswoman and Republican Party official Jeanne Luckey; Meridian insurance agent Bruce Martin; and Flowood lawyer Powell Ogletree Jr.
If confirmed by the Senate, they would begin 9-year terms on May 8. Because of a quirk in a constitutional overhaul of the board that voters approved in 2003, Bryant could be the only governor who gets a chance to appoint all the board members. From now on, all members will serve nine-year terms, which means a two-term governor would only routinely appoint eight trustees.
Leaving the board are Jackson lawyer Alan Perry; Biloxi accountant Christy Pickering; Hattiesburg orthopedic surgeon Dr. Douglas Rouse; and Meridian telecommunications executive C.D. Smith. Smith is the current president of the 12-member board. They are former Gov. Haley Barbour’s last four appointees.
Cunningham, representing the state’s southern district, earned a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State. His appointment would bring a graduate of one of the state’s three public historically black universities onto the board for the first time in several years. The lack of such an alumnus had brought opposition to previous appointees from some lawmakers. Cunningham earned his medical degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Luckey, also representing the southern district, has been a Republican Party activist for more than 30 years and one of two Mississippi members of the Republican National Committee for seven years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Mississippi and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Ogletree graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in science and earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law.
Martin, who will represent the central district, has served on the state’s Community College Board, which coordinates Mississippi’s 15 community and junior colleges, since 2006. Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler said Martin, who graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in finance and insurance, would be required to resign from the Community College Board if he was confirmed to the College Board.
Martin’s term on the Community College Board has included a months-long struggle in 2015 over who should lead the board. Martin voted to follow Bryant’s desire to consider candidates with less conventional academic credentials. The governor had asked the board to consider appointing Tray Hairston, a lawyer who had been Bryant’s policy adviser. Martin eventually persuaded the board to hire former Mississippi State University President Malcolm Portera to run a new search for an executive director. That search led to the board hiring Andrea Mayfield as executive director.
One of the first tasks confronting new members will be seeking a new higher education commissioner to lead the College Board. Current Commissioner Glenn Boyce announced in February that he will retire June 30.
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