University of Maine System trustees appointed former Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday to serve as chancellor of the seven-campus system with a mandate of continuing aggressive changes instituted by his predecessor.
Malloy is committed to expediting “One University” reforms undertaken by Chancellor James Page, who worked to cut costs and match university programs with workforce needs, said James Erwin, trustees chairman.
Malloy, 63, said it’s important to act with “urgency” to address demographic and workforce challenges in Maine, which has the nation’s oldest population.
“In the coming years, we need another 158,000 credentialed future employees. We need to produce those employees for this state. It is a monumental task but one that we need to be ready to engage in, and to accomplish,” he said.
Malloy, whose appointment begins July 1, was introduced to an audience of campus leaders from across the system after the trustees cast their unanimous vote at the University of Maine, in Orono.
Page is stepping down after stabilizing enrollment and finances over a tenure of seven years. He froze tuition for six years, consolidated administrative functions and created annual savings of more than $80 million.
Touting tough choices he made in Connecticut, Malloy said he intends to continue changes necessary for the success of the system with seven universities with 30,000 students.
As Connecticut governor, Malloy was credited with reducing the size of state government, replenishing the rainy day fund, boosting state pension funding and securing agreements with labor unions.
He made the controversial decision to create a Board of Regents to bring 84,000 students in community colleges, regional state universities and the state’s online college under a single umbrella. He also expanded the flagship University of Connecticut, which was not part of the new system.
The changes led to a succession of five presidents of the new system and several no-confidence votes by faculty. “It was not easy. It was not always popular. But it was a job to be gotten done. They were goals that needed to be reached,” he said Friday.
Malloy’s appointment marks the second consecutive time trustees looked to a leader who didn’t pursue a career in education.
Page was CEO of Old Town-based James W. Sewall Company, a consulting firm specializing in forestry, natural resources and civil engineering.
Malloy’s willingness to effect change is important as the University of Maine System continues to adapt, said Erwin, the trustees’ chairman.
“As governor he delivered reforms and structural changes to state government that were not always popular, and certainly not expedient, but that advanced the long term interest of his state and its citizens,” Erwin said.
Indeed, Malloy struggled with low public approval ratings throughout his two terms as governor. He served when Connecticut faced large budget deficits, and he often clashed with both Democrats and Republicans over his efforts to balance the state’s books. He also angered many taxpayers for supporting large tax increases during his first term.
Malloy said Mainers should be prepared for additional changes at the system, comprised of the University of Maine, the University of Southern Maine, and campuses in Fort Kent, Presque Isle, Farmington, Augusta and Machias.
“Let us not be afraid to make the changes necessary to allow us to accomplish that goal. We owe it to the state,” he said Friday.