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Regents quiet on two commissioner finalists


GREAT FALLS (AP) - Two finalists for the job of Montana commissioner of higher education were informally selected Wednesday by the state Board of Regents, but the choice was made behind closed doors and will not be announced until Friday, Chairman Richard Roehm said Wednesday.

Regents reached consensus on their preferences from among four semifinalists, and will discuss the selections and vote during the three-day board meeting that wraps up Friday, he said.

Roehm said the semifinalists had been notified of the regents' choices by Wednesday afternoon.

The board was pleased with the foursome recommended by a search firm hired by the regents to pare a list of 30 applicants, Roehm said.

''We had the luxury of selecting from among four that more than met the criteria set for the search crew,'' he said. ''We thought we picked two that would work well with the personality of the board.''

The regents spent time Tuesday and Wednesday interviewing each of the semifinalists.

The list includes two candidates with ties to Montana: James Kaze, a Havre lawyer and a regent for almost 12 years, and Sheila Stearns, former chancellor at the University of Montana-Western.

The other contenders are Warren Fox, the former executive director of the California university system, and William Fulkerson, former president of the State Colleges of Denver.

The board expects to make its final decision on who gets the university system's top job at its July meeting in Kalispell.

The chosen person will replace Carrol Krause, who was named interim commissioner in January after Richard Crofts announced plans to retire. Crofts held the job for 6 years.

Kaze was a regent from 1986 to 1998, and was chairman his last six years on the board. He has been a lawyer in Havre since 1978 and has been the city's attorney since 1992.

Stearns has been president at Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb., since 1999 when she left her job as leader of the Western campus in Dillon. She worked for the University of Montana for two decades.


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