The_Denver_Post_logo.png

Denver Post endorsement: Lesley Smith for CU regent at-large

With her knowledge of the entire CU System, Smith can hit the ground running if she’s elected this November. 

By THE DENVER POST EDITORIAL BOARD |

PUBLISHED: October 26, 2018 at 5:08 pm | UPDATED: October 26, 2018 at 5:11 pm

Editor’s note: This represents the opinion of The Denver Post editorial board, which is separate from the paper’s news operation.

After 30 years as a teacher, leader and researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder, Lesley Smith is prepared to take the next step and help guide the entire CU system as a member of the Board of Regents.

Smith, who retired this spring as the associate director of education and outreach for CU Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, has made helping Colorado students her life’s work.

And that work isn’t limited to CU Boulder.

For eight years she served on the Boulder Valley School Board, where she helped oversee a $300 million budget and the hiring of superintendents.

That public service has prepared her, we think, to be a member of the nine-member CU Board of Regents, which will be responsible for hiring a replacement for retiring President Bruce Benson and overseeing the third largest employer in the state that serves more than 60,000 students and has a budget of $4.5 billion.

Smith’s opponent, Ken Montera, also knows how to manage large operations. After a long, successful business career, Montera retired as an executive vice president with Limited Brands, overseeing 5,000 stores and 50,000 employees.

But where Smith won our endorsement was with her knowledge of the entire CU System, including campuses and partner programs across the state. We think Smith can hit the ground running if she’s elected this November.

She will also be the only Regent who comes from the system’s faculty, bringing the much-needed perspective of academia to the board at a time the members are preparing to set the next course for the system.

The board has become increasingly political in recent years, and this election is no exception. It has been billed by just about everyone as a referendum on the job that Benson has done in the past decade at the university.

We have been pleased with the work Benson has done, particularly when it comes to raising private funds to subsidize the dwindling state dollars for CU. Benson has been an innovative leader and the board would do well to find a replacement that can fill his shoes. If there’s been one complaint about Benson, it’s been from faculty, especially at CU Boulder, who feel he’s been a bit absent from the campus and disconnected from academia.

Smith strikes us as someone who can bridge that divide, while maintaining the moderate approach of the regents in other areas, including promoting a diversity of viewpoints on a campus that is renowned for its liberal tendencies. Smith told us no student should feel ostracized for their political beliefs and that she’s committed to putting best practices in place to make sure everyone feels welcome on campus.

She’s a good pick for the Board of CU Regents.