RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s community college system president will become the next head of the University of North Carolina’s 17-campus system, a UNC governing board member said on Thursday.
Peter Hans, who began the community college job just two years ago, will be introduced on Friday as the UNC system president, Board of Governors member Leo Daughtry told The Associated Press. The 24 voting members of the board perform the task of approving the choice of president.
A search committee was formed last year to determine a permanent successor to Margaret Spellings, the former U.S. education secretary who left the post in early 2019 midway through her five-year contract. The interim president, Bill Roper, is set to leave the temporary job at the end of this month.
House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat, also said Thursday that Hans would be hired as the next president, citing two people in the interview process that he wouldn’t identify.
Hans didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Thursday. The Board of Governors scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday morning, with its purpose “to elect a president.” A UNC system spokesperson declined to comment.
Hans, a 1991 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate who grew up in Southport and Hendersonville, is no stranger to UNC system administration. He previous served on the Board of Governors and was its chairman from 2012 to 2014.
“I like the fact that he’s from North Carolina,” Jackson said in a brief interview with the AP. “I’m glad we didn’t have to go out of the state to find somebody qualified to do the job.” WRAL-TV first reported Hans as the anticipated pick.
The system serves nearly 250,000 students, with UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University its two flagship campuses.
Hans had a lengthy history in Republican politics, which should suit him on a board dominated by conservatives. The voting board is elected by the GOP-controlled General Assembly.
Hans worked in the 1990s for GOP U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth and later with then-Rep. Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole is her successful 2002 U.S. Senate campaign.
But he’s had the reputation of a bipartisan collaborator. Hans began a government relations practice with former Democratic Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, state Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore came together in an unusual show of unity when Hans was named president of the community college system in May 2018. The state’s 58 community colleges serve 700,000 people.
“This is a guy who can reach across the aisle, this is a guy who can achieve consensus,” Cooper said in 2018.
Like schools nationwide, the UNC system is figuring out how their schools will reopen this fall with the COVID-19 pandemic still in place. The UNC system board also struggled recently about what to do with a Confederate statue on the Chapel Hill campus that was toppled by demonstrators in 2018. A $2.5 million legal agreement between the board and North Carolina Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans was overturned by a judge earlier this year.
Associated Press/Report for America writer Bryan Anderson contributed to this report.