Regents looking to polish social network

The Kansas Board of Regents wants to establish the political equivalent of “date night” with each state legislator and Gov. Sam Brownback.

At a regents retreat last week, a theme that came through loud and clear from board members was that they need to get chummier with the Legislature and the governor.

Regent Tim Emert of Independence, a former legislator who rose to be Senate majority leader, said making contacts with those who control the purse strings and those who help form public opinion is paramount in advancing higher education initiatives in the state.

“We just have not done a good job of telling our story to the world and presenting ourselves as a system,” Emert said.

Newly appointed regent Kenny Wilk of Lansing, also a former legislator who chaired several powerful committees, said the regents should make sure they establish relationships with the new crop of legislators, who in several years will be holding leadership positions.

He noted that the 2010 election produced 37 new House members. “That’s a lot of people,” he said.

Regent Chair Ed McKechnie of Arcadia, another former House member, said he would like to schedule individual face time between board members and legislators.

He also wants to make senior staff at the regents available as contacts for every member of the 125-member House and 40-member Senate.

“What I am really trying to do is to make sure we are not leaving anybody behind from an informational basis,” he said.

When Brownback spoke with the regents, he said that the best way to get on his good side and that of the Legislature and public is to set measurable targets for regents universities that will produce results. Otherwise, he said, the only message that is heard is “we just want more money.”

And Brownback said showing a little love wouldn’t hurt either. He noted that he doesn’t get much applause for defending the regents’ budget and that higher education avoided deep cuts during the past legislative session for the first time in three years.

“I hope you thanked and hugged your legislators,” he said.

By Scott Rothschild


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