- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - The leader of Georgia’s university system announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the year, closing a term of more than five years.

Hank Huckaby said in a statement that the system has a bright future. Huckaby first announced his plans Wednesday morning at a Board of Regents meeting in Atlanta.

“Public higher education touches all aspects of our society. It is the fabric that holds us together and is an investment that pays dividends for life,” Huckaby said in the statement. “The University System is one of the great strengths of Georgia, and I am grateful to have been able to serve with the faculty and staff who bring it to life every day to serve our students.”

Huckaby immediately began work to consolidate various campuses, lowering the number of system schools from 35 in 2011 to 29 this year. Huckaby argued that consolidation was the best way to lower operating costs, but the decisions occasionally sparked disagreement on the affected campuses.

Huckaby served for a short time as a Republican member of the state House before becoming chancellor. He previously worked as director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget under Gov. Zell Miller and vice president of finance and administration at the University of Georgia.

“Chancellor Huckaby has been a lifelong public servant to the State of Georgia, and public higher education has been his special calling,” Board of Regents Chairman Kessel Stelling said in a statement. “The Board and I express our sincere thanks and appreciation for all Hank has done to support the students, faculty, staff and everyone who will touch the University System for years to come.”

Steve Wrigley, the university system’s executive vice chancellor for administration, will become interim chancellor on Jan. 1. Wrigley has worked for the system since 2011 after holding a variety of positions in higher education and Georgia state government since 1988.

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