Missoula's Pat Williams appointed to state Board of Regents

By CHELSI MOY of the Missoulian | Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 9:00 pm

Gov. Brian Schweitzer appointed former Congressman Pat Williams to serve on the Montana Board of Regents on Wednesday.

The appointment comes less than a month after Williams retired from teaching at the University of Montana and serving as a fellow with the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West. News of the appointment came as a surprise to Williams on Tuesday, the day before it was announced. The nine-term U.S. representative from Missoula didn't apply for the volunteer post nor has he express interests to the governor about serving as a regent before.

"I gently tried to talk him out of it, frankly," Williams said.

However, Schweitzer wasn't about to take "no" for an answer, instead informing Williams that he would call his wife, Carol Williams, the former state Senate majority leader, if he tried to decline.

"I couldn't say no to him and Carol," Williams said. The appointment is a great honor, Williams said on Wednesday. For 30 years, Williams has taught in the classroom, served on education boards or served in an educational administrative capacity, he said. Williams replaces Stephen Barrett, a Bozeman attorney, whose term expired.

Also Wednesday, Schweitzer appointed Jeffrey Krauss, director of finance and administration at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Krauss, a Republican, replaces former regent Chairman Clayton Christian, who is now the commissioner of higher education.

Each regent serves a seven-year term. The board has seen relatively high turnover in recent years. All but one of the regents is new to the board in the last two years.

Recently elected regent Chairwoman Angela McLean, of Anaconda, was appointed in 2010. The longest-serving regent is Todd Buchanan, who was appointed to the board in March 2007.

Williams' first board meeting is next week in Dillon.

Williams served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Montana between 1979 and 1997. Upon retirement from Congress, he taught a history of wilderness class at UM in the environmental studies and forestry programs, as well as guest lectured in other departments on various topics.

As a new regent, Williams has his sights set on one thing: students. They are the reason that universities and colleges exist in this state. Faculty and administrators are there to serve students, he said.

"Very seldom, when I was chairman of the House Post-Secondary Education Committee, would anyone come forward in a conversation and say the word 'student,' " he said.

Williams attended the University of Montana, William Jewell College in Missouri, and the University of Denver.

Krauss previously served as the elected Gallatin County treasurer and a Bozeman city commissioner. Krauss served as Bozeman's mayor until January 2012.

Krauss has a bachelor's of science. in business administration from Montana State University, and received the A.L. Strand Award for a "nontraditional student showing concern for people through campus or community service and exemplifying leadership and scholastic achievement."