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Insurance company owner to be U of M regent

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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers came together Wednesday night to select an insurance company owner to the University of Minnesota's leadership board.

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House and Senate members met in a joint convention and a majority chose Tom Devine of Chanhassen as the university's new regent.

The University of Minnesota graduate will be the 2 nd Congressional District representative. He replaces former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, who resigned last month amid conflict of interest allegations.

Sviggum is spokesman for the Minnesota Senate Republicans. He said the two positions did not conflict, but the board told him to choose between them.

A legislative committee could not come to a consensus on a recommendation Tuesday evening, so it sent the names of both Devine and Robert Vogel of Elko New Market forward. A third candidate who received few votes was eliminated.

Devine, who co-owns an insurance agency in Edina, will join the 12-member regents board in time for its next meeting on May 10. He will serve the five remaining years of Sviggum's term.

One of the key issues at the university is student housing, Devine said. There is a shortage across the system, especially in St. Paul and Duluth, he said.

"It centers around trying to keep the cost (of college) for students lower," he said.

He also said with new leadership at the university and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems, there will be opportunities to find ways to collaborate and evolve.

"The Legislature is asking the two systems to do more with less," he said.

Board Chairwoman Linda Cohen said she appreciated the Legislature following the process of selecting a new regent. She said Devine is devoted to the university and will be a good addition to the board.

Devine said he has been involved in higher education issues in the past and is passionate about the topic.

"Higher education in Minnesota is truly a valuable resource," he said. "It's the backbone of Minnesota."

Devine said he brings not only his background, but the perspective of a parent to the board. One of his sons attends the university.

Danielle Nordine reports for Forum Communications Co.

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