I spoke briefly this afternoon with Dr. Carl Johnson, who'll take the chair for the first time Friday as leader of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. He says the board will not choose a president of the system Friday to succeed retiring president B. Alan Sugg.
"There will not be a vote Friday on filling the position of president," Johnson said. "The board will decide where the process goes from here."
Until now, Board member John Ed Anthony has been the point on the search, interviewing people who have expressed an interest but not formally applied, so as to shield their names from public disclosure. I learned over the weekend that Anthony had talked to a couple of Arkansas business people and that a movement had developed on the board in support of Stanley Reed of Marianna, a farmer, lawyer and former Farm Bureau president. An earlier effort to install Reed as Sugg's successor without prior public notice failed after some word leaked of the plan.
The process that has been underway could change with Johnson as chair. "I'm not in a big rush to try to hire somebody just for hiring someone," Johnson said. "I want to get the process done openly. I want to get the process done in a manner in which we select the best candidate. It's very important that we as 10 board members get it right."
Johnson said that there ultimately should be public applications for the position and interviews, as has been done for previous major UA positions, such as UAMS chancellor. "I think if a person is hired, they should put in an application to be considered," be said. To date, no one has actually applied for the job.
Gov. Mike Beebe has said previously that he was content to have Anthony continue to serve in an expired term, as the law allows, to complete the presidential search process. But if it develops Friday that the search is to be extended, that could affect Anthony's decision to stay on and, ultimately, add another factor — a new board member — to the complicated calculus that is the politics of choosing UA leadership.