By Emily Wangen
CEDAR FALLS — The state Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously appointed former University of Iowa administration member Mark Braun to be the regents’ new executive director and CEO.
The move came during the regents’ meeting at the University of Northern Iowa; Braun will begin serving the three-year term starting Nov. 1.
He is currently the chief operating officer for the regents and has served in that position since December 2015. Braun has been a part of the regents’ system since 1998, starting as the UI’s state relations officer. He also served as chief of staff and UI vice president for External Relations for former President Sally Mason.
From 2014-15, Braun served as the transformation project manager and vice president for Operational Efficiency and Regulatory Analysis leading the regents’ efficiency efforts.
Bob Donley, who had previously served as the executive director, announced his resignation prior to the regents’ June 8 meeting. His resignation became effective July 15.
Regent President Mike Richards said the interim director, a role which Keith Saunders currently holds, would not be a candidate for the permanent position during a June press availability, because Richards thought it would make for a better search.
After Donley’s resignation, the regents had to decide how they would look for a new director.
“What we concluded was that it wasn’t necessary to hire a search firm but that we did want to do a search,” Richards said during Thursday’s announcement.
The regents had 42 applicants for the position, Richards said. From there, a committee of regents narrowed the candidates to five applicants who were interviewed for the position.
Richards said he believed the regents unanimously agreed Braun was the far superior candidate for the position because of his institutional knowledge and experience with the regents.
“This sort of made him uniquely qualified for the position, and therefore he was the only one, the only candidate who ultimately was reviewed by the entire board,” Richards said.
To set Braun’s salary, Richards said, the regents did a comparative national study on what others are being compensated in this type of position.
Braun’s base salary will be $154,300, a sharp decrease from his salary as COO of $240,000.
Richards noted the regents are looking to address the issue of the salary cap with the state Legislature in hopes of raising it, saying the national average salary for this type of position is approximately $330,000.
Braun will also be given a $185,000 recruitment incentive, which will be paid out in 25 percent increments over the following 18 months. After that, his salary will return to the base amount.
“We had to give him a recruitment incentive to get him to take a job that paid $90,000 less,” Richards said.
The regents have decided to not fill the COO position left vacant by Braun. Richards said this decision, alongside other administrative changes, would save the regents approximately $300,000 in the regents’ office operating costs.