(I've updated this blog post twice below.)
Here's one person who won't be the next permanent president of the UNC System, and that's Dr. Bill Roper, the current interim. He announced last month that he wouldn't seek the job permanently.
Here's one person who could be the next leader of the 17-campus system, and that's Rep. Tim Moore, the current speaker of the N.C. House.
That's according to several published reports, including this one in the Triangle Business Journal. The TBJ reported last week that former UNC Board of Governors chairman Harry Smith and several others think Moore is interested in the job, which pays upward of $750,000 annually. (The Board of Governors is paying Roper $775,000 annually, the same as his predecessor, Margaret Spellings.)
Moore told the Business Journal that he's not interested: "My plans are — very simply — to run for re-election here. I’ve got a lot of work to do here. Speaker of the House is a pretty demanding job — I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”
This isn't a new rumor. WRAL reporter (and former N&R colleague) Travis Fain tweeted this back in August:
By the way: Rumors that Speaker Tim Moore is seeking UNC System President job. He told me last night he’s not. Said he hasn’t put in, isn’t angling for it, hasn’t asked decision makers for it. Planning to run for re-election. #ncga #ncpol— Travis Fain (@TravisFain) August 20, 2019
Over at NC Policy Watch, Joe Killian (another former N&R colleague) devoted a chunk of a recent story about leadership turnover in the UNC System to the Moore rumors. That story, which quoted three anonymous BOG members, said Moore "would be unlikely to have enough support on the board of governors to gain the presidency. The board has become increasingly sensitive to accusations of self-dealing, they said, as reflected in the new chancellor search policy."
(That new policy, which the BOG approved in 2018, prevents BOG members from serving on campus search committee and from becoming chancellors or interim chancellors unless they quit the board. This N&O story goes into great detail about the revisions. This seems to be a good place to mention that a WRAL story from September noted that former BOG chairman Harry Smith is rumored to be interested in the system presidency. Unless Smith gives up his board seat, he's ineligible for the job.)
The Moore rumor mill seems to have enough forward momentum that the Daily Tar Heel poked around, too. A story published in the UNC-Chapel Hill student newspaper last week quoted several state lawmakers as saying Moore might or might not be interested in the job and that he might or might not be a good choice. (The DTH, by the way, mentioned a few things about Moore's bio that I didn't know about — namely that he's a UNC-CH graduate who served on the BOG before he was elected to the House in 2002. The DTH story doesn't include this, but Moore is an attorney by profession and holds a J.D. from the Oklahoma City School of Law.)
So where does that leave us? Just grasping at the proverbial straws for the most part. But if you're trying to handicap presidential candidates based on their higher ed bona fides, don't. Campus leaders in North Carolina more often than not have followed the usual professor-dean-provost route to the chancellor's office. The career paths of UNC System presidents, however, are all over the map. Here are brief bios of the last five in reverse order of their appointments:
• Bill Roper worked in government and the private sector before UNC-CH hired him as a dean of its public health school in 1997. Before he became the interim system president, Roper was dean of the UNC-CH med school and CEO of UNC Health Care.
• Margaret Spellings was a longtime political and policy adviser to former Texas governor and former U.S. President George W. Bush. She served as U.S. Secretary of Education during his second term.
• Greensboro native Tom Ross was a judge and foundation leader before he became president of Davidson College. He had that job for a little over three years before the UNC System called.
• Erskine Bowles, another Greensboro native, was an investment banker who served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff.
• Molly Corbett Broad came up through the administrative ranks at Syracuse University before becoming CEO of the University of Arizona system and a high-ranking official with the California State University system.
Broad's predecessor, C.D. "Dick" Spangler Jr., ran his dad's construction company and later took over Bank of North Carolina, now Bank of America. Bill Friday, the architect of the modern UNC System, was the assistant dean of students at UNC-CH and later assistant to the system president, Gordon Gray, Friday's predecessor.
See any common traits based on their resumes? Neither do I, except maybe for the fact that none of the seven had earned a Ph.D and most had deep North Carolina connections.
The BOG, meanwhile, has named a presidential search committee and hired an executive director to work with the committee. The BOG hasn't set up a timeline to name a new system leader, but Bill Roper's announced departure date of June 30 gives the board a soft deadline. Now all the committee needs is a few candidates. The rumor mill has already given it one.
* Update, 11 a.m. Wednesday: Because I noted the CV highlights of past UNC presidents, I included a couple more items about Moore.
Update, 10:15 a.m. Thursday: NC Policy Watch has more today on the Tim Moore rumors that popped up Wednesday during debate over the appointment of a new BOG member. You can read that story from Joe Killian here. A few folks are talking up Moore, a few folks are critics of the idea and Moore himself professed not to know what issue Killian was asking him about. Go read it. WRAL has more.