January 27, 2023

Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Monday announced four appointments to the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents, charged with administering the state’s university system.

The Alaska legislature will decide at a joint session whether to confirm Dunleavy’s appointments to an eight-year term on the 11-member board. In the meantime, they will serve as members of the board, beginning with a meeting next month with an agenda to be announced.

Dunleavy’s four appointments include Bethany Marcum, CEO of the Alaska Policy Forum, a conservative, open-market nonprofit. The organization has long advocated for greater school choice, which would allow public money to flow into private schools.

Marcum, who served as a state senator as Dunleavy’s legislative adviser, was appointed a member of the Alaska Redimstricting Board by the governor in 2021. An Anchorage Superior Court judge said there was ample evidence that she and two other Republican executives — John Binkley and Budd Simpson — were involved in a “secret process” to unconstitutionally manipulate the state’s political map.

Marcum did not immediately respond to inquiries from the Daily News about her appointment to the Board of Regents.

Dennis Michel, founder and president of American Mechanical, Inc., a general contractor based in Fairbanks, was pleased when he was contacted by phone that his application for the board had been accepted. Michel said he thinks the university system is “very important to Alaska’s future,” but he needs to review the university’s status before commenting on his ideas for its future.

A third appointee, Joey Crum, is CEO of Northern Industrial Training, a private trade school based in Palmer. He is the brother of Adam Crum, Treasury Commissioner. He could not be reached for comment on Monday.

J. Scott Jepsen has served on the board for the past two years and has been reappointed by the governor to a full eight-year term. Jepsen, a retired oil and gas executive, served the remainder of the late Andy Teuber’s tenure after Teuber was accused of sexual harassment, and later died in a helicopter crash in 2021. Jepsen did not respond to an emailed request to change Opinion.

Dunleavy’s new appointments are set to replace three Regents whose terms expire this year, all appointed by independent former Governor Bill Walker. Sherri Buretta, John Davies and Lisa Parker all did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily News.

Three other board members are older than Dunleavy. Kali Spencer, the student representative on the board, will complete her two-year term this year.

Democratic Senator Löki Tobin, co-chair of the Senate Education Committee, said she was “very much looking forward to hearing more” about the governor’s new appointments and that “obviously a few names caught my eye.”

“I think it will be interesting to hear their perspective and interest, and in particular what their vision is for public education in the state,” she said.

Other lawmakers declined to comment on the details of the governors’ names for the honorary board, saying they would wait to learn more about them during the confirmation process.

Dunleavy, beginning his second four-year term, must appoint a fifth regent after John Bania, a former director and superintendent, resigned in 2021. Senator Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, noted that Bania was the only member of the board from Southeast Alaska, and that no current members represent that region of the state.

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