Regents election preview: Candidates on why they’re running
Voters across the state on Nov. 8 will decide four seats on the Board of Regents, sending at least three new members, and possibly four, to the governance group overseeing the University of Colorado system.
Regents are elected to six-year terms, which are staggered. Eight of the nine seats are assigned to Colorado’s congressional districts, including the newly established 8th District; the final at-large seat is elected by voters statewide.
Two incumbents on the board chose not to seek re-election in 2022: Regent John “Jack” Kroll, D-Denver, representing the 1st Congressional District; and Regent Heidi Ganahl, R-Lone Tree, serving in a statewide at-large seat that now is assigned to the new 8th Congressional District.
Regent Sue Sharkey, R-Castle Rock, has represented the 4th Congressional District since 2011 and is term limited.
Regent Ken Montera, R-Colorado Springs, has represented the 5th Congressional District since being appointed to the board by Gov. Jared Polis in December 2021 after the departure of Regent Chance Hill. Montera, who also is vice chair of the board, and his opponent are running for the right to complete Hill’s original term, which ends in January 2025.
CU Connections invited the major-party candidates on this year’s ballot to respond to this request:
Please tell the faculty and staff of the University of Colorado system why you wish to serve on the Board of Regents.
We asked that they limit their written responses to roughly 250 words.
Here are the answers we received:
Wanda L. James
Dear CU staff, faculty administration, students, and the communities our amazing system serves,
I would like to say first and foremost it is the honor of my lifetime to be able to serve this great institution as your new regent. My history with CU began 40 years ago when I became a first-generation student and Naval ROTC midshipmen at CU Boulder. When I think about that day, standing in Libby Hall after my dad left, I would never have imagined that 40 years later I would be given the opportunity to help generate new opportunities for other first-generation students and students of color.
Over the next six years of my term as regent, diversity will be the subject that I address every time you hear me speak. I would like to be a source of connection for communities of color to feel heard and a source that can elevate the voices of all of those who wish to challenge the level of diversity our university system embraces.
I look forward to holding the university firm to its strategic plan on addressing the issues of affordability and access. I look forward to holding the administration to the promises of addressing a more diverse workforce and opportunity for tenure. I will ensure that diversity has measurable outcomes which we properly plan, fund, and dedicate the resources promised. And most importantly, I look forward to having you all hold me responsible for ensuring that I am doing everything possible to make sure that diversity is not just a word on the website but is an integral part of a proud culture which we have created together. Shoulder to Shoulder is how we roll!
Did not respond. Photo not available.
The University of Colorado Board of Regents is accountable to the people of our state. That accountability passes to the university leadership, to the faculty and to the students. It is increasingly important that students be accountable to their fellow students. This means respecting differences, entertaining conversation, and calling out bullies where they are. The regents can set this tone with their voice and their actions. After all, if the school leadership is unable to be accountable to one another and to respect differing views, how can we expect faculty, staff and students to do the same?
The University of Colorado must be a place where students are able to graduate as well-rounded, productive men and women. The university must focus on providing a great education regardless of field. Students must also be able to develop themselves outside of the academic experience.
Whether it is Colorado’s NCAA-sanctioned programs, club programs, internships or student government, the benefit of participating in these activities with fellow students creates stronger graduates and long-term benefits for everyone participating. Our most visible athletic programs — football, men’s and women’s basketball, ski, golf, lacrosse and cross country — should be resourced in a way that allows these programs to compete at the very highest level. These programs are the very window through which many judge the university and our brand, and they are also major potential revenue-generating assets. I will passionately advocate for these programs as regent.
Greetings, faculty and staff of the University of Colorado system. I would like to assure you that I will be considering the well-being of the people of the University of Colorado in all my decision-making. I have been a public high school science teacher in Texas as well as a U.S. Navy veteran, mechanic, truck driver, store manager, entertainer, and have only recently gotten into politics. I truly do know what many of you go through on a daily basis and will champion the proper care of the faculty and staff at the university. I believe in people, not politics.
I want to continue to serve as your CU regent because I believe giving back is critical to the health and future of our communities. I want to continue to give back to the university that not only built the foundation for my career but my entire life.
I was the first in my family to attend a major university thanks to the President’s Leadership Class scholarship. My education both in and out of the classroom helped establish my broad vision and intellectual curiosity that fostered a 30-year-plus career in corporate America that ultimately led me to helping lead three multi-billion-dollar, Fortune 200 organizations at the C-suite level and creating jobs for over 40,000 individuals.
Since being appointed by Gov. Polis in December 2021, I have been elected vice chair of the Board of Regents and asked to serve as chair of our treasury investment group. I am also vice chair of the Finance Committee and sit on the University Affairs Committee. I was very proud to be a part of the selection process that hired Todd Salman as our new system president. I also strongly supported bringing an aerospace engineering program to UCCS and the funding to create new engineering complexes at both CU Denver and UCCS.
I am particularly proud of the thoughtful and aligned approach our board has taken to always put CU’s students, faculty and staff first as we make key decisions that will lead our university into the future. Our major role as leaders of the CU system is to ensure that we provide educational opportunities for all Coloradans, regardless of where they come from in our state, and to ensure that they know they are welcome and supported.
I’m a third-generation Coloradan from Pueblo and a true example of what education and excellent faculty leadership can produce. For that, I will always be grateful to CU.
My name is Ron Casados and I am running as a Democrat for the CU Board of Regents from the 5th District, which includes Colorado Springs and most of El Paso County. I am a Colorado Springs native, retired from working with Special Education students in public schools and adults through the Resource Exchange for 25 years.
My first experience with higher education was at UCCS. I was a first-generation college student in my family, and UCCS was very welcoming and supportive. I finished my education at the University of Northern Colorado, with a degree in education and counseling. I am proud to be running for the Board of Regents, to help guide and improve the world-class university system that CU has become.
If elected, I would focus on providing access to everyone, increasing diversity and equity for students, as well as faculty and staff. That includes making sure that tuition and expenses, as well as pay and benefits, are affordable and competitive. Financial support from the state and federal government budgets will be important to keep the university system competitive for students, staff and faculty.
I attended CU Boulder starting in 2004, and later earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of South Carolina, where I taught for a decade.
I want to serve on the Board of Regents for CU because my experience teaching at a flagship university convinced me that we are at a time of change and opportunity for higher education. The increasing costs for students, increasing reliance on temporary faculty by universities, changing demographics of our students and changing number of students interested in higher education make me believe that higher education is fundamentally transforming, and that the next decade is pivotal.
I want to be a regent to be able to advocate for the inestimable importance of academic freedom to the American university, and to push us to not be afraid to take big risks in this transformative time. I want our incentive structures and administration to respect bold research, pedagogical and hiring strategies based on the processes that are built in place, rather than casting hasty judgement based on the results.
As a lifelong educator, I look forward to using my years of experience work for us at the University of Colorado.
I believe that I can help bring about long-term solutions to issues facing higher education for our CU community of students, faculty and staff. As a first-generation student, community advocate and educator for over 50 years, my voice brings a fresh and critical perspective to the table.
Students should not only aspire to get a degree at CU, they should expect it! Faculty and staff should not only aspire to excel in their professional pursuits, they should expect it.
I am committed to support and further the four pillars inherent in the mission and strategic plan for CU — affordability, inclusion, fiscal responsibility, and discovery through research.