Gov. Laura Kelly selected Cherryvale’s school superintendent, a Wichita restaurant owner and a former Gardner city administrator to serve on the Kansas higher education board responsible for coordinating 32 universities, community colleges and technical schools.
The Democratic governor nominated Cherryvale Superintendent Shelly Kiblinger; Jon Rolph, president and chief executive officer of Thrive Restaurant Group; and Cheryl Harrison-Lee, who stepped down last year as administrative officer of the Johnson County suburb of Gardner. Each nominee for the Kansas Board of Regents is subject to confirmation by the Republican-dominated Kansas Senate.
“Cheryl, Jon and Shelly are highly qualified professionals and ready to step up and take on this challenge,” Kelly said. “I look forward to their contributions as we work to ensure that our universities thrive.”
In terms of public education, the board’s ongoing challenge will be the politics of crafting a solid operating budget amid pressure to hold down student tuition rates and demonstrate this year’s $33 million appropriation from the Legislature warranted another significant cash infusion next year.
The trio replace Dennis Mullen, of Manhattan, Dave Murfin, of Wichita, and Daniel Thomas, of Leawood. The men were appointed to the Board of Regents in June 2015 by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
The nine-member bipartisan Board of Regents has primary jurisdiction of the six state universities in Emporia, Hays, Lawrence, Manhattan, Pittsburg and Wichita.
Harrison-Lee, who was hired in 2012 by Gardner after stints at city offices in Eatonville and Daytona Beach, Fla., had her contracted extended in 2016. Following election of new council members, she was placed on leave in August 2018, and she resigned one month later. The Gardner mayor praised her contributions to the city’s development upon her departure.
She holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from University of Florida and a journalism degree from University of Sound Carolina.
Rolph owns and operates 41 Applebee’s, 18 Carlos O’Kelly’s Mexican restaurants and two HomeGrown restaurants scattered across 10 states in the Midwest and Virginia. He was student body president at Baylor University and returned to Topeka in 2002 to work in the family business.
Before Cherryvale, Kiblinger was superintendent of Hutchinson public schools from 2011 to 2017 and previously was assistant superintendent of Garden City schools. She holds a doctorate in educational administration from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Pittsburg State University.
Remaining Brownback appointees with terms expiring in 2021 are Shane Bangerter, of Dodge City, Ann Brandau-Murguia, of Kansas City, Kan., and Helen Van Etten, of Topeka. Garnett resident Bill Feuerborn was appointed by Brownback, but his term ends in 2022.
Gov. Jeff Colyer, who stepped into the job upon Brownback’s resignation in 2018, appointed Mark Hutton, of Andover, and Alan Schmidt, of Hays, to terms ending in 2022.