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Deal adviser to help find new chancellor for state university system
Gainesville businessman Wilheit among 21 chosen to search committee
1105Philip Wilheit
Philip Wilheit

Chancellor search

The state Board of Regents' Chancellor Search Committee will post a job description and ask for feedback on a new website.


The state Board of Regents announced the 21 people on the Chancellor Search Committee that will find the next University System of Georgia leader once Erroll B. Davis retires, and Gov.-elect Nathan Deal will have representation on the committee.

The committee, composed of regents, administrators, students and professors, includes Philip Wilheit, who was named to Deal's transition team and was chairman of Deal's campaign.

"The chancellor is one of the most important positions in the state. Chancellor Davis has done a very good job, and we want to be sure we continue that," Wilheit said Thursday afternoon. "The university system is a mammoth operation to run, especially with the budget and the HOPE scholarship. This job is really important for running higher education."

Wilheit said Deal asked him to serve in the position.

"This plays into the transition, certainly, and I know he wants someone on the committee who will represent his interests," Wilheit added. "I'm very flattered that he asked me to fulfill this role. I look forward to doing it."

Wilheit served on the state board of education under Sen. Johnny Isakson from 1996-1999, which "ignited a passion" for education leadership and policy, he said.

"Deal's prosperity plan relies on job creation, and education is key to this," he said. "We all recognize that."

Davis, who has served as the university system leader since 2006, announced last month he will retire when his contract expires at the end of June.

Davis proposed a five-year commitment when he was hired and told Gov. Sonny Perdue he would serve until the end of his term. He retires in June 2011. Davis said the election made this the appropriate time to leave since the chancellor and governor should have a close relationship.

Regents Chairman Willis Potts said the committee will develop a position description through discussions with important higher education groups and will work with Texas executive search firm R. William Funk & Associates to conduct a national search.

"It sounds like a good sign that Deal plans on hitting the ground running," said Douglas Young, a political science professor at Gainesville State College. "It shows that he's serious about rolling up his shirt sleeves, as he promised in his election night victory speech."

Young noted the importance of the top Board of Regent position.

"The chancellor can make a profound difference. I remember when Stephen Porch instituted a number of significant changes in the 1990s," he said. "A chancellor is in that unique position to have significant impact on higher education."

The appointment is just the first of many to come in the next few months.

"The governor as the chief executive officer has a tremendous amount of power in terms of appointments," Young said. "Although, it isn't as strong as other states because Georgians get to elect so many of our statewide offices that others appoint."

For example, the New Jersey governor names the secretary of state, attorney general, superior court judges and county district attorneys, he said. Because of the ability to appoint cabinet-level positions, the governor of New Jersey is considered one of the most powerful gubernatorial positions in the nation. In Georgia, Deal must work with those elected for agriculture, public service and labor commissions.

"The Georgia governor does have a lot of authority in terms of appointing important people to run various state government bureaus," Young said. "As a college professor, I'm certainly affected by the policies made by the Board of Regents."

The search committee will forward the credentials of up to five candidates to the full Board of Regents, which interviews and picks the next chancellor.


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