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MSU Board of Trustees will have at least one new member

MSU Administration Building
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Administration Building, Michigan State University

By Scott Pohl, WKAR News



There will be at least one new face on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees next year.

WKAR's Scott Pohl reports on the major party candidates for MSU Trustee.


There will only be one incumbent Trustee on the ballot next month. Democrat Colleen McNamara was first elected to the board in 1994, and re-elected in 2002. She's executive director of the Michigan Cable Telecommunications Association.

In seeking a third eight-year term, McNamara says she expects the state to continue to decrease higher education funding. Since the university has been hammering out budgets in recent years with less money from the state, she says MSU needs keep moving forward.

"This has been a tremendous opportunity for the university, for all of higher ed, I think, to look at themselves and figure out what their true mission is, and I want to remain a part of that," McNamara says, "because I've followed it up to now through the relatively good times, the bad times, and now I think we're coming out to probably the really, really good times."

Two Republicans on the ballot both enjoy some name recognition.

Retired Meijer executive Brian Breslin is the son of Jack Breslin, for whom MSU's basketball arena is named. Former Spartan football player Mitch Lyons played in the NFL for seven seasons. He's now a member of the Meadowbrooke Group financial management firm.

Lyons says tuition at MSU should not go up any faster than the rate of inflation.

"Kids are leaving the university, and universities across the state, with a huge debt load," Lyons says. "And, oftentimes, having to leave the state to try to go find a job to pay it off, and you know how life goes; once you're gone, it's tough to get back. I would just commit to not raising the tuition rate higher than the inflation rate. Now, that being said, inflation's been awfully low, and I'm a little fearful that it might rear its ugly head here in the near future, but I think we have to we owe that to the residents of Michigan."

Breslin says keeping tuition in check goes beyond the MSU campus. He says the key is electing a governor and legislature who will set in place a tax structure that attracts and retains job providers.

"If Michigan prospers at lower tax rates," Breslin says, "there will be more money to fund the necessary operations of state government, and higher ed will be a priority. I don't doubt that one single bit."

The other Democrat on the ballot is long-time Democratic party staffer Dennis Denno, currently chief of staff to state senator Buzz Thomas.

Denno is critical of the university for employing more than one lobbying firm.

"We have two lobbying firms that we hire." Denno says. "We have a government relations office on campus, we are part of the president's university council, and so we basically have four lobbying arms, which is quite expensive, and we continue to get less money than the University of Michigan, and at times, we get less money than Wayne State University."

MSU's lobbying efforts have produced an interesting dichotomy among these candidates, with the conservative Mitch Lyons joining Dennis Denno in expressing concern about redundancy. Republican Brian Breslin, though, joins Democrat Colleen McNamara in the opinion that MSU needs lobbyists who can work with both republicans and democrats.

Two candidates will be elected to eight-year terms on the board in November.

MELISSA INGELLS: "And now, Scott joins me for more on this story. Good morning, Scott."

SCOTT POHL: "Hi, Melissa."

INGELLS: "So, Scott, why is there only one incumbent on the ballot?"

POHL: "Well, Melissa, the parties have different methods for nominations for the MSU Board of Trustees. Let's start with the Democrats.

It's pretty simple there. They had three candidates for two slots, and McNamara and Denno got more votes than former East Lansing mayor Sam Singh. So, they got the two nominations.

At the Republican convention, though, the candidates decide on their own if they're going to run for the first slot or the second slot, and the tradition had been that if there was an incumbent, that that incumbent would be left alone and thus assured a nomination. But in this case this year, Mitch Lyons decided to challenge Don Nugent, who, like McNamara, wanted a third term on the board. And that means Breslin was unopposed for one slot while Lyons went on to beat Nugent for the other."

INGELLS: "Alright, interesting stuff there, Scott. Thank you."

POHL: "Thank you, Melissa."

Election 2010 - WKAR
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