- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Dave Heineman said Thursday that he hasn’t applied for the University of Nebraska presidency, but he expects to make a decision in the next few weeks.

The Republican governor acknowledged on his radio call-in show this week that he was looking seriously at the job, which came open with President J.B. Milliken’s departure. Milliken announced in January that he was leaving to become chancellor at the City University of New York.

Heineman said Thursday that he wants to continue in public service, and the presidency would allow him to keep pursuing two of his top priorities as governor: promoting education for young people and creating jobs.

The governor said he and first lady Sally Ganem were still discussing whether he should apply.

“I’m certainly hopeful that over the next couple of weeks, Sally and I will make a final decision,” he said during a news conference on Memorial Day highway safety.

Heineman has previously deflected questions about his interest in the job, saying he wanted to focus on his work as governor before term limits force him to leave in January.

Heineman said no one from the University of Nebraska Board of Regents has encouraged him to apply.

The regents are elected, but two were appointed by Heineman to fill sudden openings on the board. Heineman made one appointment to replace Lavon Heidemann, whom he chose as his lieutenant governor. In addition, Heineman has helped Regents Rob Schafer with his campaign fundraising and appeared at an event with Regents Tim Clare and Jim Pillen.

The governor said he respects the presidential selection process.

“The Board of Regents has to make that decision, and I can understand they’re not going to go out in their position and encourage anybody to apply,” Heineman said. “They’re going to go out and evaluate every candidate very fairly.”

Board chairman Howard Hawks said Heineman will receive the same treatment as other candidates if he chooses to apply. Hawks said the board is planning a nationwide search, but only expects to identify the four finalists for the job.

“Obviously, the Board of Regents would welcome the governor’s application for the position, just as we will the candidacy of any other individual who believes he or she has the qualifications and experiences necessary to effectively lead our university system,” Hawks said in the statement.

As governor, Heineman has pushed for state funding to spur development of the university’s Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln. He also agreed to funding for a new University of Nebraska Medical Center cancer research center in Omaha, and called on lawmakers last year to enact a two-year tuition freeze for in-state students.

Milliken had served as the University of Nebraska’s president since 2004. Heineman has served as governor since 2005.

Dr. James Linder of Omaha was chosen this month to serve as the university’s interim president, but he will not be a candidate for the permanent position.

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