The UNM Board of Regents selected two new vice presidents in a special meeting Thursday, bypassing the University's requisite national search for vice presidential positions.
In a unanimous vote, with only Regent Sandra Begay-Campbell missing due to familial obligations, the regents selected David Harris for the newly created position of executive vice president for administration.
They also named Brian Foster as the official provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, which he had been serving as since April 2001. UNM President Louis Caldera added that Foster's level of responsibility will continue to increase.
The regents passed two resolutions that allowed the University to skip the nationwide search required for filling vice presidential positions. According to the resolution's paraphrasing of the regents' policy manual, "a national search shall be conducted for vice presidential appointments, consistent with University policies and procedures, unless there are exceptional circumstances and the regents have been consulted."
Caldera said due to Harris' "unique qualifications," the exceptional circumstances applied, and after consulting the Board of Regents, they agreed. He added that in bringing David Harris to UNM, they are hiring someone who's been in public service for 30 years.
Harris, who is Gov. Bill Richardson's executive director of the New Mexico Finance Authority, said being selected for the position was something that happened during the past few months as he and Caldera began building a personal rapport.
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Harris has also been Richardson's deputy chief of staff from 2001-03; former Gov. Gary Johnson's secretary of the N.M. Department of Finance and Administration from 1995-2000; and director of the state's Legislative Finance Committee from 1989-95.
"I've lived my entire life in New Mexico, and I've dedicated my life to serving New Mexico professionally," he said.
Harris has ties to the New Mexico government, but said he doesn't have any strong ties to the UNM community.
Although, he added, he was instrumental in engineering the cigarette tax increase in 2003, the money from which will provide funding for the UNM Cancer Research and Treatment Center.
Caldera disagreed with Harris, saying Harris has "great ties to UNM." He said Harris has laid out appointments for all state agencies, including UNM and NMSU and has dealt with the University's finances.
"It's a great record of achievement in government and an incredible asset for the University," he said.
Caldera also said Harris will help him focus on things he needs to do internally, and will help support his ability to focus on building support for the University.
Both Harris and Caldera said no contract has been signed. According to a news release, "contract negotiations with Harris are underway, and his starting date at the University has yet to be determined."
The news release states Foster will continue to serve under his present contract for the remainder of this fiscal year.