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Board of Regents primary attracts crowd of candidates, despite new shorter terms

(Credit: Hugh Jackson/Nevada Current)

Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
April 29, 2024

Voters in Nevada will soon need to narrow down which candidates can advance to the general election for the chance to govern Nevada’s public system of higher education. 

Nevada’s System of Higher Education (NSHE) — which spans four community colleges, two universities, a research institute, and a state college — is overseen by an elected panel of 13 members known as the Board of Regents. 

Elected as nonpartisans, the regents, who serve six-year terms, are responsible for deciding higher education policy in the state and managing an annual budget of more than $2 billion.

Last year, however, lawmakers passed a bill that will reduce the number of regents to nine and shorten the length of their terms to four years starting in the 2028 general election. That means any regents elected this year will only serve four years before they’ll need to run again in 2028.

The Board of Regents is also facing a proposed constitutional amendment in November that would strip the regents of their constitutional authority, which critics say has effectively given the board the ability to act as a fourth branch of government.

This year, three seats on the Board of Regents in Clark County have attracted a slew of first time candidates and veteran office holders across Districts 1, 4 and 12. In Northern Nevada’s District 9 — covering Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Storey and southern Washoe Counties — two candidates are facing an extremely well financed incumbent. 

Candidates can secure their regents seat by winning at least 50% of votes during the June primary. If nobody wins, the top two finishers will advance to the November general election.

District 1 – northern Clark County

District 1 is the only open seat on the Board of Regents this cycle, after incumbent Regent Laura Perkins chose to run for a North Las Vegas state Senate seat instead. Seeking to take her place are three candidates: Ida Zeiler, Carlos Fernandez, and Matthew Bowen.

 Board of Regents candidate Ida Zeiler. (Campaign photo)

Ida Zeiler, a former high school history teacher, is endorsed by Perkins, the current regent. She’s also endorsed by North Las Vegas Councilman Scott Black. Her campaign raised $600 in campaign contributions during the first quarter reporting period.

Zeiler, who now homeschools her four children, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in 2004. She  currently serves on the City of North Las Vegas’s Planning Commission and the City Charter Committee.

Zeiler said she supports the proposed constitutional amendment this November to remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution. In a questionnaire for the Nevada Faculty Alliance (NFA), Zeiler said an appointment system would allow “more highly qualified and invested individuals to serve the board.”

Reducing student fees is a top priority for Zeiler, according to her campaign page. Last November, the Board of Regents proposed raising student fees to fill a budget hole created by a lack of state funding during the pandemic. Zeiler also listed expanding workforce programs, supporting veterans seeking degrees, and dual enrollment programs as top priorities.

Zeiler said she supports legislation that empowers collective bargaining for NSHE professional employees. She also said she supports the current board’s decision to utilize a consulting firm to search for a new chancellor. 

In the wake of the December 6th mass shooting at UNLV, Zeiler said she believes campuses can implement technology to “add security and reduce access without losing the community feel that having an open campus creates.”

 Board of Regents candidate Carlos Fernandez. (Campaign photo)

Carlos Fernandez, the executive director of the Nevada chapter of the American Institute of Architects, is endorsed by the Vegas Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, and the Nevada State Education Association. His campaign reported raising $500 in campaign contributions during the first quarter.

Since graduating from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Fernandez has worked as a lobbyist with the Vegas Chamber, a program manager at UNLV, and a solutions analyst with Foresee Consulting. 

During his work with the Vegas Chamber, Fernandez said he actively advocated for the proposed constitutional amendment to remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution in November. He made it clear that although he is campaigning for a position on the NSHE board, he “strongly supports” the proposed constitutional amendment, adding that it’s “a crucial step towards ensuring that the governance of higher education in Nevada remains transparent, responsive, and fully accountable to the public and the state legislature.”

In a questionnaire for the Nevada Faculty Alliance (NFA), Fernandez said he supports collective bargaining rights for NSHE professional employees as a means to ensure fair treatment and equitable compensation for employees. 

If elected, Fernandez said his top priorities are to increase accessibility to higher education, improving student success through advising and career services, and emphasizing workforce preparedness in academic programs. 

Improving campus safety in the wake of the December 6th mass shooting at UNLV will require a comprehensive approach, said Fernandez. That includes stronger security measures, mental, health support, and community-based strategies, he said. 

Matthew Bowen, a candidate for the Board of Regents District 1, did not reply to the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s questionnaire and reported zero campaign contributions during the first quarter of 2024.

According to Bowen’s Linkedin, he attended the University of Central Arkansas and currently works as a managing associate at Pacific Advisors. Before joining his current role in 2023, Bowen had been employed as a district manager for Colonial Life, a U.S. Air Force heating and air conditioning technician, and a sales specialist at an Arkansas Toyota dealership.

District 4 – northeastern Clark County

 Regent incumbent Donald Sylvantee McMichael. (NSHE photo)

Elected to the Board of Regents in 2018, incumbent Donald Sylvantee McMichael is running for a second term.

McMichael did not reply to the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s questionnaire and reported zero campaign contributions during the first quarter of 2024. McMichael has not received any endorsements.

According to his regents page, McMichael attended Saint Leo College in 1974 and Syracuse University in 1983. McMichael worked as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service for 23 years and as a combat photographer in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. He also worked as a photographer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forestry Service.

 Board of Regents candidate Tonia Holmes-Sutton. (campaign photo)

Tonia Holmes-Sutton, an educational consultant, is endorsed by Veterans In Politics International, Nevada Democratic Veterans and Military Families Caucus, the Nevada Veterans Association, and the  Armed Forces Chamber. Her campaign reported raising no campaign contributions during the first quarter reporting period.

Holmes-Sutton earned a Masters of Education at UNLV before ultimately earning a UNLV Doctorate of Education.

In 2014, she was appointed to the Nevada State Board of Education by former Gov. Brian Sandoval before resigning in 2019. She is currently serving on numerous education focused boards including, as chair of the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority Board, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Board of Directors, and the WestEd Board of Directors.

If elected as the new regent of District 4, Holmes-Sutton told the Nevada Faculty Alliance she plans to prioritize equitable access to education, mental health services for students and faculty, and improving communication and collaboration from pre-k to college. 

Mental health services play a vital role in improving campus safety, said Holmes-Sutton. The mass shooting at UNLV on December 6th showed that campus security is a shared responsibility, said Holmes-Sutton. She proposed improving security systems and adding emergency stations for immediate incident response. 

Collective bargaining is a “fundamental right,” said Holmes-Sutton, adding she supports legislation that would grant collective bargaining rights to NSHE professional employees to improve their ability to negotiate terms and conditions of employment.

In a questionnaire for the Nevada Faculty Alliance, Holmes-Sutton said she deeply values diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education and would not support policy to regulate discussion of or teaching about topics about the relationship between race and gender identity in society.

Holmes-Sutton said she firmly opposes removing the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution as proposed in a November ballot measure. Holmes-Sutton argued the board plays a critical role in overseeing public institutions of higher education.

“Removing the Board of Regents’ constitutional status risks introducing instability and uncertainty at a time when consistent leadership is needed to navigate the challenges facing higher education,” Holmes-Sutton told the Nevada Faculty Alliance. 

“It is essential for the Board to provide strategic direction and ensure accountability, as well as establish a delicate balance between oversight and institutional autonomy.”

However, Holmes-Sutton said she believes the board needs to provide much more transparency and communication when choosing a Chancellor.

 Board of Regents candidate Aaron Bautisa. (campaign photo)

Aaron Bautista, a special education teacher at charter school Mater Academy, received his Masters degree in special education from Grand Canyon University and has been a teacher for nine years. His campaign reported raising no campaign contributions during the first quarter.

Bautista was appointed to the board of For Our Future East Las Vegas, an economic development initiative, by Councilwoman Olivia Diaz. Diaz also appointed Bautisa to the Neighborhood Partners Fund board for the City of Las Vegas.

Top priorities for Bautisa include increasing access and affordability to higher education, improving the teacher pipeline, mental health, and inclusion. 

In a questionnaire for the Nevada Faculty Alliance, Bautisa said he supports legislation for collective bargaining rights for NSHE professional employees. He supports the discussion of and teaching about topics about the relationship between race and gender identity in society, and would be against regulating such topics. Bautista said he opposes the proposed constitutional amendment to remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution. 

“Removing the Board of Regents takes away accountability from the colleges and universities. The Board of Regents along with chancellor, president, and legislature all must work together,” Bautista said. Bautisa did however criticize any role the Board of Regents may have in directing internal operations of the eight NSHE institutions. 

“I think the Board of Regents should provide oversight and accountability, but the school presidents should run the schools,” Bautisa said.

 Board of Regents candidate Richard Carrillo. (Nevada State Assembly photo)

Richard Carrillo did not reply to the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s questionnaire, has no endorsements listed, and reported zero campaign contributions during the first quarter of 2024.

Before running for regent of District 4, Carrillo was a member of the Nevada State Assembly where he represented District 18 as a Democrat, until he left office in 2020. During his time in office he faced some controversy after he was found guilty of driving under the influence and possessing a firearm while intoxicated in 2015.

He graduated from Washtenaw Community College in 2011 and currently works as a licensed realtor for Neighborhood Realty. Carrillo has also worked as a business representative for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 525, according to his personal Linkedin.

Shawn Stamper did not reply to the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s questionnaire, lists no endorsements, and reported zero campaign contributions during the first quarter of 2024. Stamper does not appear to have a campaign site or any other social media presence. 

Stamper previously ran to represent State Assembly District 14 as a Republican in 2022, before being defeated by Democratic opponent Erica Mosca

District 12 – southeastern Clark County

Elected to the Board of Regents in 2018, incumbent Amy Carvalho is running for a second term. In 2022, she became the chair of the Board of Regents by unanimous vote of the board.

 Regent incumbent Amy Carvalho. (NSHE photo)

Amy Carvalho told the Nevada Faculty Alliance she has not sought endorsements for her campaign, but reported raising $375 in campaign contributions during the first quarter reporting period.

Carvalho, a property manager, earned a bachelor’s in Anthropology from UNLV before receiving a master’s in Business Administration from Western Governors University, an online university based in Utah.

She served on the Boulder City Library District Board of Trustees, and also served two terms on the Nevada Department of Education’s Council to Establish Academic Standards.

During her term as chair, the Board of Regents approved a wage increase for NSHE faculty in 2023 to partially fill a budget hole created by a lack of state funding during the pandemic.

In a questionnaire for the Nevada Faculty Alliance, Carvalho said her top priorities were improving workforce education, establishing a system-wide strategic plan, and equitable funding for all Nevada higher education institutions. 

For years, the Board of Regents have attracted media attention due to public conflicts between regents, the chancellor, campus presidents, and the legislature. Carvalho acknowledged those difficulties and said she has worked diligently to repair relationships during her time on the Board of Regents and within the system.

Carvalho said she “supports collective bargaining to the extent that all professional employees support it.”

“I look forward to those discussions and working as a board toward consensus in this area so we can all speak with one voice,” Carvalho said. 

Carvalho said she believes voters in Nevada must retain the ability to choose regents and opposes the proposed constitutional amendment to remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution.

“The Board of Regents should not be an arena for politics or political favors, which would be probable with appointing regents. Perhaps stronger qualifications for who can file to run might be an improvement, but I am not in favor of changing the Constitution,” Carvalho said. 

She did, however, criticize any role the Board of Regents may have in administrative work on any of the eight NSHE institutions. The board’s role is to set the direction and goals of the system and supervise the work of the chancellor and presidents who are the experts hired to run the system and institutions, said Carvalho.

Jonathan Maxham, a competitor for the District 12 seat, did not reply to the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s questionnaire and lists no endorsements.  He reported $5 campaign contributions during the first quarter of 2024. Maxham, a doctor of osteopathic medicine in Las Vegas, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina in 2004 and a D.O. from Kansas City University in 2009. Maxham did complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey in 2024, where he listed academic excellence, personal health and wellness safety as his office priorities. 

District 9 – Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Storey and southern Washoe Counties

 Regent incumbent Carol Del Carlo. (NSHE photo)

Regent Incumbent Carol Del Carlo, a retired Incline Village resident who has been on the board since 2016, is endorsed by multiple  Republican elected officials including U.S. Rep.  Mark Amodei, Lt. Gov Stavros Anthony, state Sen. Robin Titus, state Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert, Assemblyman Ken Gray, and Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea.

Her campaign reported raising more than $21,433 during the first quarter reporting period — significantly more than any other candidate running for a post on the Board of Regents. Her highest campaign contribution, a $2,500 donation, comes from Mike Brooks, a licensed attorney and partner in the Hutchison & Steffen Las Vegas office.

In a questionnaire for the Nevada Faculty Alliance, Del Carlo said she was running for her final term.

Del Carlo earned a Bachelor degree in business administration from the University of Maryland, and a Masters in human resources from Chapman College in Orange County. 

During her final term, Del Carlo said her top priorities are to secure a new and equitable funding formula at the 2025 legislative session, hire a permanent Chancellor and new presidents for the College of Southern Nevada and the Truckee Meadows Community College, and to ensure NSHE professional employees receive a cost of living adjustment at the same rate of 80% as other state agencies receive. 

Del Carlo also told the Nevada Faculty Alliance she plans to vote against the proposed constitutional amendment to remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution, so that regents can remain elected and not appointed.

She acknowledged that NSHE’s recent search for a Chancellor ended with no hire and an appointment of an Interim Chancellor, but argued that the board’s hiring process is not flawed, calling it open and transparent. Del Carlo blamed the failed search on a “perfect storm,” brought on by an inexperienced chair who had never served on a search committee. Del Carlo supports hiring an outside search firm specialized in higher education.

Del Carlo also told the Nevada Faculty Alliance she believes Nevada could establish more residencies and keep more doctors from Nevada’s two medical schools in the state by increasing funding for graduate medical education. 

Since Nevada is a right to work state, Del Carlo said she is not opposed to NSHE professional employees receiving collective bargaining rights. As a firm believer in academic freedom, Del Carlo signaled she would not support a policy to regulate discussion or teaching about topics such as Critical Race Theory and gender identity on NSHE campuses. 

Bret Edward Delaire, a business owner competing for the District 9 regent seat, earned a bachelor’s in finance at Georgetown University. Delair declined to participate in the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s questionnaire and lists no endorsements. His campaign reported raising no campaign contributions during the first quarter. Delair does not appear to have a campaign site or any other social media presence.

Gary Johnson, another candidate competing for the seat, did not reply to the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s questionnaire, lists no endorsements, and reported zero campaign contributions during the first quarter of 2024. Johnson does not appear to have a campaign site or any other social media presence. 

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Report: NV fares well with transgender rights

“Nevada is the only state that has a constitutional protection against discrimination, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Redfield. “There is an extraordinarily broad protection for LGBTQ people in Nevada, and that is probably why Nevada didn’t show up on any of our lists this year.”