Four candidates seek to replace Derby on Board of Regents | NevadaAppeal.com

Four candidates seek to replace Derby on Board of Regents

Western Nevadans will choose Jill Derby’s replacement on the Board of Regents from the head of a pioneering Nevada family, a former Assembly member and two former student campus leaders.

David Fulstone, 55, is a fifth-generation Nevadan who still farms the family land near Yerington.

“The family landed in Carson City in 1858, and we still haven’t made enough money to get out of here,” he joked.

But Fulstone is a serious candidate with a history of public service on a variety of boards including eight years on the Lyon County Commission, the Walker River Irrigation District, State Board of Agriculture and the National Commission for Agricultural Finance, among others.

Also in the race is Ron Knecht, 57, who represented Carson City in the contentious 2003 Legislature and fought against the tax and budget increase approved that year.

The remaining candidates may be less well known but both bring significant ties to the university system to their campaigns. Ted Lancaster, 43, Reno, now director of engineering for Ajilent Technologies, was student body president at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1985-86. Liz Moore, 43, Carson City, was a student senator at Western Nevada Community College. She now works for the state health division in the Public Health Preparedness Program.

Fulstone said he is concerned the system of higher education isn’t growing at the same pace as the state.

“It’s definitely going to take some more spending from the state level, but we need to get more creative with research and technology,” he said.

He said major industries including mining and tourism/gaming need to “pony up some heavy support for growth within the system.”

“There’s a lot of money out there in different areas, and we need to better partner with industry.”

He said in addition to his family’s long history in Nevada, both his sons attended school in the university system, including his son Josh who is deaf.

“That gives me some insight into the needs of special-needs students,” he said.

He said he supports the Millennium Scholarship program “although I think it needs to be self-funded, not taxpayer funded,” and strongly supports the Health Science Center project pushed by Chancellor Jim Rogers and lawmakers including Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas.

Knecht, an economist for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, was one of those who most vocally opposed the $836 million tax and budget increase in 2003. But, he said, he believes higher education “should be first in line because it has the best claim to being underfunded.”

He said higher education funding in Nevada is 46th in the nation and needs to be increased so, despite his opposition to tax hikes in 2003, he would work to add money to university system budgets as a regent.

He said the regents, who have had problems with open meetings and records violations along with personnel issues, must also work to restore their credibility. He said he would “basically keep my mouth shut and work real hard” to accomplish that goal.

From a local perspective, he said, WNCC needs to expand to meet growing needs in western Nevada.

Lancaster said rather than focus on specific issues, he would work to ensure the system is well run and uses what money it receives from the state wisely and efficiently.

He said that means ensuring that any funding or fee increases are absolutely necessary. Lancaster said infrastructure and overhead in the system should “grow much slower than the work actually being done” to avoid becoming oversized and unwieldy.

“The other thing is making sure you’re aligned to the university’s mission and not off doing other things. The mission is to provide higher education to the workforce and future leaders of Nevada so research and education should be aligned to those key issues,” he said.

Moore said she is focused on making sure students “get the services they need and don’t have to pay exorbitant amounts of tuition and fees.

“I also recognize the system needs to survive but I’d like to find that balance, be a voice of reason on the board.”

She said that includes gathering comments and ideas from the community, not just those on the campuses.

The four meet in the Aug. 15 primary. The two top vote getters will advance to the general election in November.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.