Ex-Mayo doctor, former congressmen win regent seats

ST. PAUL -- A just-retired Mayo Clinic doctor will serve a third term on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents after a joint House-Senate convention Wednesday night picked leaders of the state's largest university.

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University of Minnesota regent candidate Randy Simonson of Worthington and his wife Sue, left, talk Wednesday night with Regent Laura Brod before state lawmakers elected regents. Don Davis/Forum News Service

ST. PAUL - A just-retired Mayo Clinic doctor will serve a third term on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents after a joint House-Senate convention Wednesday night picked leaders of the state’s largest university.

Patricia Simmons of Rochester, who recently retired from Mayo, won an unusual contest for the position serving southern Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District. She had planned to leave the board after two terms, as has been recent tradition, but got into the race after another candidate with Mayo connections dropped out.
Simmons beat veterinary microbiologist Randy Simonson of Worthington in one of two contested races. The unofficial vote was 119-75.
Before the vote, Simonson said that the race was not heated.
“She’s a good person,” Simonson said about Simmons. “I like her.”
Like others in contested races, Simonson said that he spent a lot of time talking to legislators before the Wednesday night vote.
The Simmons-Simonson contest was one of two that deadlocked the House and Senate higher education committees. Generally, the committees pick one candidate for each opening to recommend to the full Legislature.
Twin Cities lawyer Darrin Rosha won the other race in which committees could not reach agreement in the 3rd Congressional District, serving western Minneapolis suburbs. Hennepin County Medical Center chief medical officer Dr. Michael Belzer of Edina and communications-public affairs professional Paula Prahl of Long Lake were the two names forwarded to the Legislature. However, Rosha and former U.S. Rep. Bill Luther were nominated Wednesday night from the floor by legislators.
Rosha took the lead on the first ballot, and Prahl was dropped off after she got the fewest votes, with at least 100 votes needed to win. Belzer got the fewest votes on the second ballot, leaving Luther and Rosha, with Rosha winning 98-96.
Votes for other candidates recommended by the higher education committees had not been cast by presstime:

  • 4th Congressional District, Sunrise Banks Vice President Richard Beeson of St. Paul (one-term incumbent).
  • 6th Congressional District, TeeMaster Corp. President Michael Hsu of Blaine. Financial advisor Steve Laraway of St. Cloud was nominated Wednesday night.
  • 7th Congressional District, funeral home owner Thomas Anderson of Alexandria. Murdock farmer Michael Yost was nominated Wednesday night.

Regents serve six-year terms and are not paid. This year’s five openings all are from congressional districts, although the board also includes at-large regents that serve the entire state.
The 12-person Board of Regents governs the state’s largest university, with more than 67,000 students on five campuses. It has an annual $3.5 million budget.
Joining legislators and candidates at the Wednesday night session were University of Minnesota faculty, staff and students who were talking about the importance of getting input from faculty and students.
Professor Karen-Sue Taussig said the university’s land-grant tradition means that the university is not a business but a public trust.
“I have become increasingly concerned that the administration and regents treat the U like just any other business rather than recognizing the distinctive public role the university plays in creating the kind of thoughtful, well-rounded and engaged educated citizenry that is essential to maintaining a vibrant democracy,” she said.
Student Alexandra Vagac said the U has a responsibility to provide a quality education to students regardless of their degree path.
“When private dollars flood public education we begin to see situations like that of the Chicano and Latino Studies Department at the U, which is consistently underfunded compared to other ‘more profitable’ departments,” she said.

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