Former Texas Comptroller John Sharp could be the next chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, sources said Friday afternoon.
The A&M Board of Regents is looking to replace Dr. Mike McKinney, who resigned the post earlier this year.
A search committee that has been reviewing resumes and talking to potential candidates will make a recommendation to the full board of regents on Monday. The board can then vote to name one or more finalists, and after the finalists have been posted publicly, they can name a chancellor. Two sources told the Tribune that Sharp will get the recommendation. Washington lobbyist Fred McClure, who was student body president in 1976 and is a former A&M regent, is in the running. Wendy Gramm, an economist and wife of former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, didn't make the final cut, the sources said.
Sharp, a former class and student body president, state legislator and railroad commissioner, could not be reached for comment. Neither could McClure, the managing partner of the SNR Denton firm's D.C. office. McClure previously worked in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and in the Washington office of Austin-based Public Strategies Inc.
Calls to officials at Texas A&M were not immediately returned.
Sharp got his bachelor's degree from Texas A&M in 1972 and later earned a master's degree in public administration from Texas State University (then called Southwest Texas State University). He worked at the Legislative Budget Board and served in both the Texas House and Texas Senate before moving on to statewide office. Sharp is a Democrat. His last two runs for office were for lieutenant governor — against Rick Perry in 1998 and David Dewhurst in 2002. Both ended in defeat.
He later reconciled with Perry — an A&M classmate and friend — and helped him pass a business tax and school finance bill in 2006. The two have remained close, paving the way for Perry's appointees at A&M to consider his former rival.
McKinney, who moved back to Austin after leaving A&M earlier this summer, told the Tribune he doesn't know what the search committee or the board will do. But he added that Sharp would be his first choice. Sharp isn't an academician, but that follows a trend in Texas, where former lawmakers and others from outside the university environment are appointed to head colleges and universities. Kent Hance at Texas Tech, Lee Jackson at the University of North Texas, Brian McCall at the Texas State University System and McKinney himself were all legislators before they were chancellors. "The chancellor doesn't have that much to do with the academics, but has a lot to do with administration," McKinney said. "And you have to be good at getting things done in that pink building over there," he said, referring to the state Capitol.
The hiring of the chancellor could be the second-most interesting piece of news at A&M on Monday. The Aggies could get an invitation to join the Southeastern Conference in athletics on Sunday. If so, the board could vote on Monday, at the same meeting at which they're choosing a new system leader.
Here's the job posting:
The Texas A&M University System is currently seeking a dynamic and experienced leader to serve as chancellor. The A&M System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $3.3 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, seven state agencies and a comprehensive health science center, the A&M System educates more than 120,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. Externally funded research expenditures exceed $772 million and help drive the economy of Texas and the United States. With headquarters in College Station, Texas, the A&M System has a physical presence in 250 of the 254 counties across the state.