- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The board that governs Iowa’s three public universities has hired an Oklahoma college spokesman to fill a new position aimed at improving and managing its relationship with the news media.

Josh Lehman will begin June 15 as senior communications director for the Iowa Board of Regents. He will earn a $100,000 annual salary in the position, which is aimed at earning more news coverage of the board’s initiatives and better communicating its messages to the public.

Since 2009, Lehman has served as senior director of public affairs for Cameron University, a public school of about 5,300 students in Lawton, Oklahoma. Previously, the Cedar Falls native worked for six years as a spokesman for University of Northern Iowa athletics.

Lehman beat out 72 candidates, including a dozen others who were interviewed. He was selected “based on his extensive experience in communications and his familiarity with the Iowa public university system,” said the board’s current spokeswoman, Sheila Koppin, who added that it remains to be seen how her position will change.

Lehman will report to Bob Donley, the executive director of the board, who oversees a staff of about 20 full-time employees at the board office in Urbandale. But Lehman will work closely with the nine board members, who are selected by Gov. Terry Branstad and hold meetings several times per year. The board members are not paid and have other jobs.

The hiring comes as the board tackles a few high-profile initiatives that are making waves at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and UNI.

The board is searching for a new president for the University of Iowa, and is expected to hire Sally Mason’s successor as early as this fall. The regents are also overseeing a wide-ranging program meant to save tens of millions of dollars by restructuring how the campuses operate. And they have been pushing for a controversial funding plan that would largely link state spending on the universities to in-state enrollment, a move that could shift millions away from the University of Iowa.

The new job will include drafting news releases, preparing board members for media interviews, and “cultivating relationships with reporters, editors and producers,” according to a March posting.

Lehman said Tuesday he’s grateful for the opportunity and eager to get started. He said he hopes to be an asset to the news media, the board and the universities it governs.

One goal, he said, is to be proactive in identifying media opportunities and answering questions rather than reactive.

Koppin said the position is in line with efforts by the universities in recent years to strengthen their strategic communications. The salary, she said, is under market when compared to similar positions at those schools.

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