Lawmaker to be next chancellor

The Board of Regents on Friday will announce state Rep. Hank Huckaby as the sole finalist to be the next chancellor of the University System of Georgia, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Huckaby, R-Watkinsville, has nearly 40 years in public service and strong ties to state politics and higher education. He was Gov. Sonny Perdue's chief financial officer and served as the state's chief budget writer under Gov. Zell Miller. He has worked at the University of Georgia, Georgia State University and Gordon College.

He was chosen as the only finalist over current college presidents because the regents believe he can repair the strained relationship between them and lawmakers, said multiple sources privy to the selection process who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Huckaby did not respond to phone and email messages.

Regents spokesman John Millsaps alerted news media to expect an announcement about the chancellor search at 11 a.m. Friday, but declined to provide additional information. Regents Chairman Willis Potts did not respond to messages left at home or on his cellphone.

Under state law, the regents can't appoint a new chancellor until 14 days after naming finalists. But as the only finalist, Huckaby is virtually guaranteed the job.

The regents, confident Huckaby could do the job, knew he was the candidate preferred by Gov. Nathan Deal and would be the best person to rebuild trust between the regents and elected officials, sources told the AJC.

Deal consulted with the regents throughout the search process, but spokesman Brian Robinson declined to provide additional comment until after the regents make an announcement.

There long has been tension between the regents and the General Assembly. While lawmakers approve how much state money the University System receives, it is the regents who decide how the money is spent and set tuition and fees for 35 public colleges.

The relationship became more contentious in recent years as legislators and Chancellor Erroll Davis had heated debates over how colleges spend their money, why they teach certain subjects and whether the University System was willing to implement the same spending cuts as other state agencies.

Davis, who has served as chancellor since 2006, announced in October he would retire when his contract expires at the end of June. A retired engineer and CEO, Davis said he struggled in the beginning because he was unprepared for how much state history and politics play into every decision.

While lawmakers and several regents have said they respected Davis' business mind, they wished he had more experience with legislative bodies and was better equipped to work with elected officials who control the budget.

Huckaby's career history shows he knows his way around budgets, politicians and educators.

During the most recent legislative session he served on the House higher education committee and the committee that oversees college budgets.

He is a former executive director of the Georgia Residential Finance Authority. As Miller's director of the Office of Planning and Budget, he was  responsible for the preparation, oversight and management of the annual budget.

Huckaby retired in 2006 from UGA, where he served as the senior vice president for finance and administration. He also has taught at Emory University and Young Harris College.

Staff writer Jim Galloway contributed to this article.