Our View: Cautious, yet ready
In a press conference in Mobile, Ala., on May 23 amid circulating rumors, U.S. Rep. Josiah “Jo” Bonner, R-Ala., announced his decision to step down from his congressional duties to assume the newly established position of vice chancellor for government relations and economic development for The University of Alabama System.
Beyond the fancy title, we are not sure what this position will entail, and frankly, it doesn’t seem like the University does either.
UA system spokeswoman Kellee Reinhardt stated the position will incorporate harnessing “the diverse strengths of the three campuses for the economic betterment of the state and nation,” which will, in turn, increase “the state’s ability to financially support higher education.” However, the actual responsibilities of the position remain unclear.
If the University’s statements are taken at face value, it seems like Bonner just left a stable position in which he made $174,000 per year to draft government decisions in order to take a position in which he makes a still-undetermined salary to hope that the government makes the right decisions.
We can assume the new salary will be a bit higher than his previous. Bonner’s predecessor Bill Jones, the former director of the government relations branch of the UA system, made $222,487 in 2012 However, Bonner’s position comes after an expansion and redevelopment of this old branch, and Bonner will be declared a vice chancellor. The four current vice chancellors’ average salary is $287,375.
Still, coincidental concerns should not cloud the position’s potential. There is a dire need on this campus for strengthening the ties of higher education with government and assisting students with tuition costs. And in spite of all the uncertainty and potential nepotism surrounding the position, we are in support of Bonner’s selection. When we look at his background, it is clear he is a perfect fit for the position.
For five terms spanning 10 years, Bonner has represented the traditionally conservative Gulf Coast communities of Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. He stood up against increasing taxes in Congress and was key to bringing the economic catalyst of an aircraft manufacturer Airbus to Alabama last year. He was so popular in his district that he ran unopposed last year into his sixth term, which he is only leaving behind for the UA system.
If anyone can innovate the blank canvas of a position of vice chancellor for government relations and economic development, it is Jo Bonner.
However, we must ensure that he fulfills the greatest possibilities of this position. If he will be lobbying to the state, we should see a decrease in tuition based off an increase in state funding. We should see an explansion in opportunities for our campuses and their students. We should see a greater University.
Jo Bonner, you will be held accountable for this position.
Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White editorial board.