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UT Hires Search Firm, Seeks Suggestions for Chancellor

As University of Texas System regents hired consultants to help find a successor for Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, UT-Austin's president said he would be comfortable with Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek, the governor's reported favorite for the post.

The University of Texas System's Board of Regents signed a contract with an executive firm Wednesday to help find a replacement for Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

The president of the University of Texas at Austin, meanwhile, said he would be comfortable with Gov. Rick Perry's reported favorite: Kyle Janek, the executive commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services.

"Let me first say this is the board’s choice," UT-Austin President Bill Powers told The Texas Tribune on Wednesday. "They’ll go through a process, as they should. It’s up to them to choose the chancellor, and I’m confident we’ll get a good chancellor."

The board has a history of skipping over the governor's favorites. It did that last time, choosing Cigarroa over former Texas Tech Chancellor and state Sen. John Montford, who had Perry's blessing. 

In February, sources told the Tribune that the governor had signaled to the board that he likes Janek — a former state senator — for the job. Cigarroa, who is stepping down from the post after five years, plans to take over as the head of pediatric transplant surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio once his replacement has been found and installed.

In recent years, Powers has often been at odds with the governor and some of his appointed regents. But at least when it comes to Janek, there appears to be some common ground.

"I've known Kyle for a long time," Powers said. "I think he is an excellent person. If he were the chancellor, I would look forward to working with him."

When asked about the governor's preference in February, his spokeswoman, Lucy Nashed, said via email that the chancellor selection was "a decision for the board of regents."

On Wednesday, Paul Foster, the chairman of the UT System board, announced that a contract has been signed with national executive search firm Wheless Partners, which will assist the regents in their search for Cigarroa's replacement. Foster indicated that the new chancellor is expected to be chosen in the summer and installed before the start of the fall semester.

He previously said that the governor's input on the matter would be "sought and certainly considered." But it apparently won't be the only input. When the contract with Wheless Partners was announced, the system also rolled out a website to allow public comment and nominations.

In a message to the public posted on the new web page, Foster wrote, "The search will be open, inclusive and comprehensive."

He noted that in addition to the governor, the public and the professionals at Wheless Partners, the regents plan to consult with the presidents of the system's component universities, faculty, staff, students, and alumni and supporters.

"The Board of Regents is fully committed to finding a new chancellor who is worthy of leading one of the finest and most prominent public universities in America and the world. We will not settle until we have the right person for this extraordinary responsibility," Foster said in a statement.

Disclosure: At the time of publication, the University of Texas at Austin was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. Paul Foster was a major donor to the Tribune. (You can also review the full list of Tribune donors and sponsors below $1,000.) 

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/03/13/powers-comfortable-potential-ut-chancellor-pick/.

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