Politics & Government

Sherrer abruptly quits as Regents chairman

TOPEKA — The chairman of the board overseeing Kansas' higher education system abruptly resigned Wednesday, walking out of its monthly meeting after telling other members that conflicts with some of them were the reason.

State Board of Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer said later that an important factor in his resignation was several board members' refusal to let him lead the search committee for a new Emporia State University president. Sherrer, an Emporia State graduate, said taking on the job was important to him.

But Sherrer also said his conflicts with other board members began almost immediately after he started his one-year term as chairman in July 2010. In brief remarks to the board, he said some members wanted to take a more hands-off approach to governing state universities, community colleges and technical colleges, while he thinks the regents need to be aggressive in making changes.

"Life is short, and I don't think you should spend it around people that you really don't want to be around," Sherrer said later.

"It has been a rather negative situation. It escalated, and I'm just tired of it."

Sherrer, 70, served as lieutenant governor from 1996 to 2003, and has been a prominent and frequently outspoken moderate Republican. Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius named him to the board in 2007, and his four-year term was to expire at the end of June.

He said he did not expect Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican, to reappoint him. But he said he also saw no reason to stay for the remaining six weeks of his term.

"I think it would have been hypocrisy, because I would have been acting like everything was fine, and it wasn't fine," he said.

Board members stood and applauded as Sherrer left their meeting room.

"I've known you for 21 years and I have appreciated your friendship," regents Vice Chairman Ed McKechnie said before Sherrer left. "Thank you very much for your service to this board, and thank you for your service to the state of Kansas."