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Regents: Huckaby is only finalist for chancellor position

Retired University of Georgia administrator has been Deal's floor leader

POSTED: April 23, 2011 12:47 a.m.

A retired University of Georgia administrator is the sole finalist to become the new chancellor of the University System of Georgia, the state Board of Regents announced Friday.

State Rep. Hank Huckaby is a Georgia native who retired in 2006 as the senior vice president for finance and administration at UGA, where he oversaw the university's $1 billion budget.

In November, the regents launched a national search to replace Chancellor Erroll B. Davis, who retires June 30 after five years at the helm of the 300,000-student system.

"It's a very positive move, and I'm excited about it," said Gainesville native Philip Wilheit, a member of the Board of Regents. Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Wilheit to the Chancellor Search Committee in November.

By state law, the board must wait 14 days after naming finalists to officially vote on an appointment.

"I support his candidacy, and I think he will do a good job," Wilheit said. "He's got vast experience not only in government work but also in several of our colleges. I think he understands education and understands finance, which is a great combination for our state."

The Watkinsville Republican would take over a 35-campus system grappling with several years of deep budget cuts that have led to layoffs and slashed programs.

Huckaby also served under two governors. He was head of the state Office of Planning and Budget for former Gov. Zell Miller from 1991 to 1995 and the chief financial officer for former Gov. Sonny Perdue's transition team in 2002. He headed the Georgia Housing and Finance Authority from 1980 to 1991 and served as commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs.

This year, Huckaby served on both the House Higher Education Committee and the committee that oversees colleges' budgets. Huckaby also served as one of Gov. Nathan Deal's floor leaders in the House.

"I know him very well and have worked closely with him," said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, also one of Deal's floor leaders. "I think he will make a wonderful choice.

He has the institutional knowledge of both the executive branch and educational system and will provide great stability and leadership."

Huckaby was chosen after a national search to replace Davis, a retired utility chairman who has drawn fire from state lawmakers over how the university system has responded to potential budget cuts.

Davis also was an outsider to Georgia and higher education - he was a businessman and former chairman of a multibillion-dollar utility who had never worked at a college.

Legislators criticized the system for steep tuition hikes that, in part, led to the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship program nearly going broke. Critics say the university system is slow to respond to budget cuts and quick to put more financial burden on students.

Associated Press contributed to this report



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