Two of the seven positions on the Montana Board of Regents are open for appointment, bringing to three the number of seats Gov. Steve Bullock will have filled with a regent of his choosing in less than a year.

Bullock on Monday appointed Angela McLean, chair of the Montana Board of Regents, to serve as lieutenant governor. Also, Regent Todd Buchanan’s seat on the board has expired.

“Our state constitution is beautifully clear and efficient in that regard,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian. “The university system continues to move forward in delivering excellent educational opportunities to the citizens of Montana.”

Kevin McRae, deputy commissioner of higher education, said Regent Paul Tuss of Havre will preside over the board’s meetings on an interim basis until a new chair is elected later this year.

McRae said that while there are now two vacancies, the board will continue to function as normal. Regents meet again in March. Their agenda is not yet posted.

“It definitely does not create a sense of urgency or immediacy to have two of seven appointments open, but it’s an exciting time,” said McRae. “We look forward to the governor sending our way, when he sees fit, a couple of capable individuals to lead us.”

Bullock appointed Missoula nonprofit leader Fran Albrecht to the board last September, making her its newest member. She replaced Pat Williams, whose confirmation was blocked by the Legislature in April.

Regents are appointed to the board for a term of seven years, with one term expiring each year. Governors have wide discretion with their appointments when seats become available.

“By 2007 or so, the board ended up with all (former Gov. Brian) Schweitzer appointees,” said McRae. “It’s an opportunity for any governor to look for and appoint Montanans who share the values and have the capacities – or serve the purpose – that the governor hopes they will.”

The current regents, all appointed by Democratic governors, oversee the $1.5 billion Montana University System, which serves about 47,000 students with 8,000 employees.

Given the system’s size, McRae said, the learning curve can be steep for new appointees.

“It’s a complicated organization to walk into and understand immediately in all its facets,” McRae said Monday. “But we’re not feeling pressured by any of these two vacancies.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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