AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci shelved the nominations of two men for the University of Maine System board Thursday and sent the Legislature a list of names that would maintain the numerical status quo between men and women on the board.

Changing course in a manner signaled earlier, Baldacci renominated one of the women he originally planned to replace and put forth another woman to hold steady the slim proportion of women currently serving as trustees of the seven-campus system.

As a result, the Legislature’s Education Committee will be asked later this month to recommend Senate confirmation of incumbent board member Margaret Weston of Yarmouth and Victoria Murphy of Portland.

“We think it’s important to be sensitive to all the issues,” Baldacci said in an impromptu interview.

Murphy, a director of a Portland-based consulting firm and former chairwoman of the Maine Democratic Party, would replace Sandra Prescott of Machiasport, a former legislator and longtime head of the Washington Hancock Community Agency.

Baldacci, who also renominated Chairman Charles Johnson of Hallowell, the owner of Kennebec Tool & Die, for another term on the panel, “agrees that gender balance on the trustees’ board was necessary,” gubernatorial spokesman Lee Umphrey said.

Most recently, of the board’s 15 appointed members, only three were women.

A 16th panelist, the board’s sole ex officio member, is state Education Commissioner Susan Gendron.

Previously, Baldacci had nominated former Maine AFL-CIO president Charles O’Leary of Orono and Paul Mitchell of Waterville, brother of former Sen. George Mitchell, to five-year terms on the board.

They would have replaced Weston, a consultant and former Portland newspaper executive, and Prescott.

But the nominations of O’Leary and Mitchell raised concerns in some quarters about the dominance of men serving as trustees and in late May the Education Committee canceled scheduled confirmation hearings.

“We’re making the change after taking stock of what the committee said,” Umphrey said Thursday.

Umphrey added that Baldacci did not want the matter to distract attention from what he described as a strong presence of women hired and appointed throughout the 9-month-old administration.

O’Leary and Mitchell are considered potential candidates for the university board in the future.

“We’re going to be dealing with them as appointments become open in the next year or so,” Baldacci said.

Generally speaking, he said, “it’s important to make sure that we retain the leadership and membership and at the same time put new blood forward.”

A Senate confirmation session has been scheduled for Oct. 30.

Johnson, Mitchell and O’Leary were originally nominated on May 15.

About a month later, on June 13, the Education Committee chairmen – Sen. Neria Douglass, D-Auburn, and Rep. Glenn Cummings, D-Portland – notified Senate President Beverly Daggett that the committee had been “unable to complete its consideration” of the nominations.

Most university trustees are appointed for five-year terms and may serve only two consecutive terms. A student member of the board is appointed for a single two-year term.

Board duties include appointing a chancellor and university presidents, approving academic programs, conferring tenure and setting tuition rates and budgets.

AP-ES-10-09-03 1430EDT


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