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Johnson named vice-chairman of University of Minnesota regents

WILLMAR -- University of Minnesota Regent Dean Johnson, of Willmar, was elected Friday by his peers as vice-chairman of the 12-member board.

The two-year post begins July 1.

Richard Beeson, of St. Paul, was elected chairman.

"It's an honor," said Johnson, who is a former state senator and was first elected to the Board of Regents in 2007. He was re-elected to a second, six-year term this spring.

In a telephone interview following the Regents meeting Friday, Johnson said he was nominated by another regent for the vice-chairman position.

The process included being screened by a three-member nominating committee and a final vote this morning by the entire board.

Johnson said he actively campaigned for the position and talked to the 11 other members of the board about his desire to carry out the goals and mission of the University.

Those duties include representing the public's interests in the University and the affiliate campuses, setting the budget, granting tenure, establishing course offerings and hiring the University president and holding him accountable for carrying out the policies established by the regents.

Because he's "not the new kid on the block," Johnson said the other regents were familiar with his leadership style. Johnson just finished two years as chairman of the facilities and operations committee.

The role of vice-chairman comes with added responsibilities, including extra meetings with top university faculty and alumni association. He'll work closely with Beeson and University President Eric Kaler on tasks, like naming chairs to four standing committees and formalizing the board agenda.

Johnson said he's been friends with Beeson for a number of years and the two "work well together."

If tradition holds true, Johnson could expect to be named chairman of the Board of Regents in two years.

Also on Friday, the Regents approved a $3.6 billion budget and approved a two-year freeze on undergraduate tuition, which Johnson said should save students $2,500.

That budget also includes a $17 million reduction in administrative expenses. Johnson said the regents intend to make a similar cut to administration next year.

"The Regents are committed to streamlining operations while maintaining the excellence of Minnesota's only land-grant public research university," said Johnson in a press release.

Johnson said he's pleased the Legislature provided additional funding for four major initiatives at the University, including research and development in the areas of clean water, food safety, robotics and the study of the brain related to Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents is an independent governing board for the University. The members are selected by the Minnesota Legislature.

(extra, optional info about Dean Johnson)

Dean Johnson was elected to the Board of Regents in 2007 as an at-large representative and was recently re-elected for a second six-year term. Previously, Johnson was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives (1978-1982) and Minnesota Senate (1982-2006), where he served as minority and majority leader. Johnson has been parish pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar, Minn., for 40 years and received his bachelor's degree in business administration from Luther College, a master's of divinity degree from Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul and a master's degree in strategic studies from the United States Army War College.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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