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Brownback names 3 new Kansas regents

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Gov. Sam Brownback named three new members to the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday, including a Republican National Committee member and a former Kansas City, Kan., mayoral candidate.

Brownback introduced Helen Van Etten, a key figure in the Kansas Republican Party, Ann Murguia and attorney Shane Bangerter during a news conference at Kansas State University. He said his selections, which must be confirmed by the Kansas Senate, shared his vision for higher education in the state, including targeted financial investment to boost academic programs.

"It's in their bones. They just love it," the Republican governor said.

The appointees will succeed Christine Downey-Schmidt, a former state senator from Inman; Dan Lykins, a Topeka attorney; and Janie Perkins, a Garden City school district administrator and former mayor. The three are at the end of their four-year terms.

The Board of Regents oversees the six state universities, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges.

Brownback recently signed a new state budget in which lawmakers cut funding for higher education. He and the current regents have expressed frustration with the Legislature's decisions and have vowed to work to restore the cuts next year. The cuts spared community colleges and technical schools, but reduced spending at the state universities by roughly 3 percent over the next two fiscal years.

"I'm going to fight to get that restored. This is not over," he said.

Brownback now has appointed six of the nine members of the board, with the three new members joining Fred Logan, former state Rep. Kenny Wilk and Robba Moran, wife of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, who were appointed in 2011.

Bangerter is an attorney and member of the Dodge City Community College trustees. He said regents and the leaders of the institutions have to be good stewards of what resources are appropriated.

"It's not really our call on what dollars we get," he said. "We elect folks to make those decisions for us."

Van Etten was educated in Taiwan and the United States. She works for the Topeka school district and is known for her conservative credentials. She said funding higher education against other interests of the state was a "balancing act."

Murguia ran this spring for mayor of the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County. She serves on the Unified Government council, representing the Argentine area of Kansas City, a predominantly Hispanic district of the city.

Murguia said she would bring the perspective of her constituents, many of whom are low-income, to the regents.