TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly moved to place a larger imprint Wednesday on the Kansas Board of Regents by naming a retired railroad executive, a prominent educator and a former Republican legislator to the state’s higher education governance board.
The latest nominees combined with three members appointed during 2019 provide the Democratic governor with a majority on the nine-member board. State law requires selections to undergo Senate confirmation. No political party can have more than five members on the bipartisan board, which has direct responsibility for six public universities and oversight of a network of community and technical colleges as well as Washburn University.
Kelly selected Carl Ice, former president of BNSF Railway; Cynthia Lane, former superintendent of public schools in Kansas City, Kansas; and attorney Wint Winter, a former bank president who represented Lawrence in the Kansas Senate. All three earned degrees from state universities under direction of the Board of Regents and have been campaign contributors to Kelly.
“These individuals are highly qualified, forward-thinking and committed to safeguarding our state’s world-class higher education system,” Kelly said.
She said she expected the trio to advocate for workforce development initiatives, build sustainable partnerships to advance the cause of education and to make Kansas colleges and universities bigger engines for economic growth.
Vacancies on the Board of Regents occurred due to completion of eight years of service by Shane Bangerter, Ann Brandau-Murguia and Helen Van Etten. Each served the maximum of two four-year terms after appointed in 2013 by then-Gov. Sam Brownback, the Republican.
Van Etten served as the state’s national GOP committeewoman, while Brandau-Murguia was a Democrat.
Bangerter invited controversy eight years ago by leaving the Republican Party to register as unaffiliated to sidestep the prohibition of placing six Republicans on the board. He had been Ford County’s GOP chairman.
Bangerter said in an interview Wednesday that conflict was overblown because he possessed the mindset of a political moderate who supported Brownback and opposed President Donald Trump. He said members of the Board of Regents operated in a manner that didn’t emphasize partisan loyalties.
“It definitely has been an honor,” Bangerter said. “By far the biggest reward is all the people that you get to work with. You take on challenging issues. It’s been a great privilege and experience.”
Van Etten said she worked through a big learning curve after joining the Board of Regents and marveled at influence board members could have on shaping higher education.
“That made us all very humble. Seriously, very humble. I learned so much from everybody,” she said. “Individually, we’re people who like to see the future of our citizenry of Kansas … benefit from the education they receive.”
Winter, a Lawrence attorney and former chief executive officer of Peoples Bank, was a member of the Senate from 1982 to 1992. He received a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Kansas.
In 2014, Winter was among leaders of an organization called Republicans for Kansas Values that sought to derail Brownback’s campaign to win a second term as governor. The group included nearly 200 former elected Republican officials uneasy with tax, budget and economic policies of the Brownback administration. It also endorsed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis, who lost by 32,000 votes to Brownback.
Ice retired from BNSF Railway in 2020 after 42 years with the company. He received a degree from Coffeyville Community College before completing an engineering degree at Kansas State University. He serves as vice chairman of the KSU Foundation’s board of directors and is part of the Salvation Army’s national board of directors.
Lane, who holds a doctorate from KU and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pittsburg State University, has worked in the education field for 36 years. She’s chief executive officer of the Evolve Education Leadership consulting company and is on the Governor’s Council on Education. She also was a key witness in the latest school-finance trial that led to a Kansas Supreme Court finding the state had unconstitutionally underfunded K-12 schools.
In July 2019, Kelly nominated Shelly Kiblinger, Jon Rolph and Sheryl Harrison-Lee to be on the Board of Regents. All three were confirmed by the state Senate.