Lesley Smith for CU Regent At Large

Exceptionally Qualified Leadership

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CU president search an issue in at-large regent's race

By Cassa Niedringhaus 10/20/2018

Come November, Boulder residents will vote on one of three seats up for election on the University of Colorado's Board of Regents.

Colorado Springs Republican Ken Montera and Boulder Democrat Lesley Smith, as well as two third-party candidates, will face off for the at-large seat that is elected by a statewide vote. Regent Stephen Ludwig, D-at large, who currently holds the seat, is term-limited.

Voters will also elect regents in the 3rd and 5th Congressional Districts.

Regents hire the university's president, approve its $4.5 billion budget and set tuition rates. In recent months, too, they've approved new freedom of expression and academic freedom policies, and they're exploring a mandatory civics requirement on each of the campuses, which, if implemented, would be the first time in history the regents mandated curriculum.

Beyond that, several former regents said, the races take on added significance this year because the regents are in the midst of a search for President Bruce Benson's replacement. He announced he'll retire in July.

Although the current board has already chosen a firm to assist with the search and will have named the members of the search committee before the elections, the new regents will interview finalists and vote on a successor to Benson, who was chosen in 2008 on a 6-3 party-line vote.

"One of the most contentious but also the most important (decisions) is the hiring and firing of the president of the university," former Regent Jim Martin said. Martin served as a Republican but said he is now a conservative Democrat. "That's why this will take on different political proportion or dimensions based on the importance of the position of the president of the university system."

Regents Heidi Ganahl, R-at large, and Irene Griego, D-Lakewood, who are co-chairs of the search committee, said they would get the new regents up to speed and pledged to keep the search non-partisan.

"It can be a challenge for any incoming regent to learn the responsibilities of the position and the complexities of the university, but coming aboard during the critical activity of the presidential search makes it even more challenging," Ganahl and Griego said in a written statement provided by a university spokesman. "However, we have every confidence that the board and the administration will get the new regents up to speed quickly so they can contribute to finding CU's next leader. We are committed to a non-partisan process and look forward to working with the new board members on it."

In their race for the at-large seat, the candidates face unique challenges, including the amount of territory they have to cover with little name recognition and a $400 cap on individual campaign contributions, several former regents said, including Martin and Steve Bosley, the Bolder Boulder founder and a former Republican regent.

"Statewide, nobody knows what a regent is, so it's very hard, particularly down-ballot, for someone to make a knowledgeable decision based on who they should vote for regent," Martin said.

The university is an important economic engine in the state, though, he said.

"People should care about what the regents are and what they do because they affect the quality of education and the cost of education," former Democratic Regent Bob Sievers said. "They are the ones who are the stewards for the students of this state and on all four campuses of the University of Colorado."

These are the candidates in the at-large race.

Lesley Smith

Smith, a Democrat from Boulder, served eight years on the Boulder Valley School Board and worked for nearly 30 years as a scientist and educator at CU. During her time on the school board, the board oversaw a $400 million budget and hired two superintendents. At CU, she served in a number of positions, including as a researcher, educator and most recently as the associate director of outreach and education at CU's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

She's always been passionate about education, she said, and she'd bring the faculty voice to the board.

"I would be the only voice of CU faculty if I got elected, which would provide a slightly different perspective than everyone else," Smith said.

Among her priorities would be examining the pay and benefits for faculty and graduate students, which she said are low compared to CU's peers and present challenges for recruitment and retention. She'd also prioritize lobbying the state for more funding, and she'd look for a president who'd do the same. She'd also look for a president who would be both visible around the state and on each of CU's campuses, she said.

She'd examine affordability, including the CU Boulder initiatives of a four-year tuition guarantee and eliminating class fees, and how those could be extended to the other CU campuses. It's an equity issue, she said.

She'd also examine pathways from community colleges to CU to ensure that students' credits transfer and that they have the support needed to graduate from CU. And she'd prioritize efforts to increase diversity on CU's campuses.

"CU's got some great programs, and I would certainly want to make sure we continue with those programs to try to attract a more diverse student body."

(Read more)


Boulder Weekly Vote Guide 2018

By Boulder Weekly Staff - October 11, 2018

The CU Board of Regents has been on a sort of conservative crusade over the last several years, calling for measurements of the political climate on campus, creation of programs centered on conservative thought and hiring faculty to teach conservative thought. Board Chair Sue Sharkey even made the unsavory and uncultivated comparison between being conservative on campus and being gay.

Now, with CU President Bruce Benson set to retire next year, the Board of Regents will be tasked with finding his successor. Benson, for the record, was an oil man with no experience in education. He was also the only candidate the Board considered.

We need a Board of Regents that prioritizes academic achievement over political agendas, and that casts a reasonably wide net in its search for a qualified candidate for CU’s new president. We believe Lesley Smith has the skills and values to help with that. Lesley spent 30 years as a scientist and educator at CU, and served on the Boulder Valley School Board for eight years. She is currently on the Colorado Science Education Network steering committee.

Smith champions online degree programs through the CU system so that people living in rural areas or who have full-time jobs and families can obtain degrees from CU schools without having to come to campus. She supports a CU system wide guaranteed tuition, like the one implemented on the Boulder campus, that locks students into a tuition rate without increases across their college career. She hopes to bring student and faculty pay up to rates equivalent to other PAC 12 schools, an issue she believes is making it difficult for the CU system to attract staff and students.


A strong candidate and an incumbent emerge in races for CU Board of Regents

Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 7:03 AM

Regents at-largeBoth major-party candidates for an at-large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents this year are well qualified for the post.

We had the pleasure of interviewing the Republican, Ken Montera, a retired business executive, and the Democrat, Lesley Smith, a scientist and an educator.

We wish the Regents did not have a partisan cast. We don’t really see what party politics has to do with oversight of a big and laudable university system. We asked both Montera and Smith about this, and both convinced us that their aims were purely to see CU be the best it can be.

However, partisan politics have encroached on the CU Regents as they are now composed. President Donald Trump recently tweeted that he thought Google’s search engine was unfair to conservatives. A majority of the nine regents are conservatives who lately have been concerned that not enough is being done to ensure there are conservative voices and faculty on campus.

We get it. We’re just not sure it’s their job. If the regents are going to crusade, we want them to crusade for higher education and access to it.

Smith, a longtime Boulder resident, would be the only regent who has faculty experience. She is concerned with ways to make a CU education more affordable, which we think is terribly important. She is a “pragmatic Democrat,” she told us. If the board is truly concerned with diversity, she is just the leavening it needs. We like Lesley Smith for CU Board of Regents.



This scientist and educator has spent her career championing environmental education.

Recently retired as the Associate Director of Education and Outreach at CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science), local limnologist Lesley Smith remains a devoted advocate of scientific inquiry in the exploration of natural places. Along the way she has been a fierce advocate for conservation of those wild spots.

Smith began her work in the research of wetlands, both in the tropics of the Amazon and the alpine areas around Colorado. As an outreach scientist, she made it her goal to share not just the research, but the research process with students and teachers through innovative programs like EarthWorks, which brought teachers from around the country to Colorado in the summer to design, implement and share their own research question.

“I really liked working with teachers and getting them to teach inquiry-based science,” says Smith. “It’s the best way to develop critical thinking skills.”
Other programs, such as Lens on Climate Change, challenged students to interview scientists, review data, and create a film that highlights a specific aspect of a changing climate.

“I think we’re seeing more and more now that scientists are getting push-back. We can’t just live in our little bubble and expect government to fund research. We should be able to get out of our bubble and explain to people what we do and why it’s important and that science is critical to our community and society.”

Lesley Smith is currently running for the office of CU Regent At Large.

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Colorado politics Letter to the editor, March 15, 2018

‘I have the courage and energy to make CU a beacon’

Thank you, caucus goers. Congratulations county assembly delegates! You have some important decisions to make about which candidates best represent your values and interests.

I’m Lesley Smith, an exceptionally qaulified candidate running for University of Colorado regent at large, a statewide race. I’m the only candidate who has had a nearly 30-year career as a scientist and educator at CU, as well as an eight-year tenure on my local school board. I understand the role of the regents, similar to the role of school board — set the vision for our  flagship university system, oversee the president, and allocate the budget based on the values of our statewide community.

I plan to reach out across our state through local townhalls to learn how CU can best serve your children and your community. I was the first woman aquanaut to live and work in the Aquarius underwater research lab, and I was one of the few women students in my reaearch institution.

I have the courage and energy to make CU a beacon among public institutions. I will ensure that CU offers students an excellent, relevant education that equips them with workforce-ready skills. I will work to attract strong funding for a strong CU system, and I will fight for affordable, accessible pathways to success. I have the experience to make a difference in our state. If you see me at assembly, please say hello! I’d love to earn your vote.

Please visit my website to learn more about my campaign: LesleyForCU.org.

Lesley Smith
Candidate for CU regent at large




January 27, 2018


Democrat Dr. Lesley Smith announced her candidacy for the CU Regent At Large position. Lesley, 59, said, “My 30 years as a scientist and educator at CU, eight years of public service on my local school board, and pioneering experience as the first woman aquanaut at the underwater Aquarius research lab have prepared me to take on the challenges facing the CU system. I am honored and ready to vigorously pursue the opportunity to serve our wonderful state as a CU Regent.”

Lesley’s goals for the University of Colorado include offering an excellent, 
relevant education that prepares students for the workforce; providing all students affordable, equitable and accessible pathways to success; and working hard to
attract strong funding for a strong CU system.

Lesley graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) 
with a B.A. in Aquatic Biology. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland after completing a research project in the Brazilian Amazon where she had the responsibility for on-the-ground operations of a multi-million dollar project while pursuing her research.

Lesley has lived in Colorado since 1989. She works at CU Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES) where she worked as a Research Scientist and is currently Associate Director of CIRES Education & Outreach. She lives in Boulder with her spouse Michael, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.) Together they have two adult children.

Colorado House Majority Leader KC Becker said, “I am happy to endorse Lesley Smith for the at-large seat on the CU Board of Regents. Not only does she have a solid understanding of the importance of the University of Colorado in our state, but she believes that all Colorado students deserve the opportunity to have a college education. Colorado’s economy depends on a well-educated work force and the best way for that to happen is to ensure that all students can acquire the education that they want.”

For additional information, contact:

Lesley Smith

"I am pleased to endorse Lesley Smith for this November's open statewide seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents. Lesley is a scientist who understands the necessity of using facts and research to change policy. Lesley would be the only regent with the knowledge of how CU operates from the bottom up. Because of Lesley’s extensive experience, she will “hit the ground running” and provide a unique perspective to the Board of Regents."
—Linda Shoemaker, CU Regent (CD-2

Photos of Lesley Smith

Images here are provided for press use. Click on thumbnails for high-resolution image download page. For more information, please contact Andrew at info@LesleyForCU.org