by BRAD ROLLINS
Editor and Publisher
State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a San Antonio Republican who represents Hays County, is still fuming that another lawmaker was selected to serve as chancellor of the Texas State University System.
In March, the system’s regents chose former State Rep. Brian McCall of Plano over Wentworth, whose district since 2003 has included the eight-institution system’s defacto flagship, Texas State University in San Marcos. Last week, Wentworth fired off an angry five-page letter to regents chair Ron Blatchley in which he laid out both men’s resumes.
“Frankly, Ron, I’m more than a little disappointed and puzzled; I’m personally offended that my significant and sustained support of and advocacy for higher education and the system for many years apparently count for so little in the minds of the Board of Regents,” Wentworth wrote, pointing out that he had served a term as a Texas State regent himself.
“I believe that my years of service to TSUS as a regent, a state senator, a parent and a financial supporter make me deserving of a better explanation for my being passed over than ‘you had a great interview this morning but the board has decided to go in a different direction,’ the only official explanation ever given to me,” Wentworth wrote. “…From my standpoint y’all threw overboard a loyal, tried and true, longtime member of the crew in favor of (please pardon my unvarnished candor) a Johnny-come-lately opportunist.”
In an interview late last week, Wentworth said he stands by his comments and still is waiting for an explanation for what he called a “baffling” decision.
“I believe by any objective standard, I was the better qualified of the two and I’m just curious to know what factors led to the board of regent’s decision,” Wentworth told the San Marcos Mercury. “I’m not being critical of Brian McCall. I’m being critical of the judgment of the board of regents.”
“My guess is that Brian McCall when he was appointed didn’t know the difference between a Bobcat and a Bearkat,” Wentworth said, name-checking the Texas State and Sam Houston State mascots.
Wentworth, generally considered a moderate conservative with an independent streak, said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst personally called all nine regents on Wentworth’s behalf and he also had recommendation letters from State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who chairs the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, high-power attorney Jack M. Rains, and General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre. A member of the Legislature’s upper chamber since 1995, Wentworth did not draw a challenger from either party this year in his re-election bid.
Neither Blatchley nor other Texas State regents returned calls seeking comment. All nine of the sitting regents were appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, who has made the news by demanding political loyalty of his appointees, particularly those to state university system boards.
In September, two former Texas Tech regents, Mark Griffin and Windy Sitton, said they were pressured to resign after they supported U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in her unsuccessful primary bid against Perry. Griffin told the Austin American-Statesman that Perry’s chief of staff, Brian Newby, told him the governor “expects loyalty out of his appointees and if you can’t be loyal, it’s probably not best to be on the team.”
An aide who answered the phone at Perry’s press office on Monday said she would get back with the San Marcos Mercury on whether Perry expressed a preference for one of the two finalists for the chancellorship. She did not return the call by presstime.