— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — One woman and 16 men will be interviewed to fill two openings as Auburn University trustees.
The Auburn Trustee Selection Committee, headed by Gov. Robert Bentley, picked the 17 candidates Tuesday from nearly 100 who applied for the openings. All 17 were recommended by at least one member of the selection committee to be called in for interviews. The committee will interview them and pick two on Jan. 31.
Bentley pointed out that only one of the 17 people selected was a woman and asked, "Is that an issue?"
None of the other four members of the all-male selection committee said it was. Trustee Jimmy Rane of Abbeville said he tried to recommend the best candidates for interviews and only considered credentials.
Currently, two of Auburn's 14 trustees are women.
After the meeting, Bentley said, "I think you ought to try to find the best candidate whether they or black or white, female or male." He said it's important to have diversity on boards of trustees for public universities, "and we already do on the Auburn board of trustees."
One of the seats to be filled is being vacated by Scottsboro real estate developer John Blackwell, and it covers part of the Tennessee Valley. Chosen for interviews were: Jerry Batts of Athens, Mike Demaioribus of Huntsville, William "Jack" Fite of Decatur, Sam Givhan of Huntsville, Macke Mauldin of Florence, Goodrich Rogers of Scottsboro, Tom Stanton of Huntsville and Larry Stutts of Tuscumbia.
The other seat is an at-large position being vacated by Samuel Ginn of Hillsborough, Calif. He was a pioneer in the wireless communications industry and is one of Auburn's largest contributors. Chosen for the interviews for that seat were: Dave Dennis of Pass Christian, Miss.; Melissa Brown Herkt of Austin, Texas; Brian Lawrence of Kennesaw, Ga.; Tommy Martin of Moundville; Dan Moultrie of Vestavia Hills; Howard Nelson of Birmingham; Ed Reynolds of Miramar Beach, Fla.; Dennis Ross of Lakeland, Fla.; and Wayne Smith of Nashville, Tenn.
Smith, Givhan, Fite and Demarioribus were recommended for interviews by all five members of the trustee selection committee.
The two people picked by the selection committee will have to be confirmed by the state Senate in the legislative session beginning Feb. 5.
When Bentley first came into office in 2011, the trustee selection committee picked some trustee nominees without going through public interviews. That caused a backlash, and the Senate did not approve them. Since then, the committee has gone through a more transparent process, including public interviews and releasing the resumes of all candidates. Those trustees have won Senate approval.
"When you hear complaints, you say, 'We must be doing something wrong," Bentley said. He said the committee changed the process to become more transparent and has had no complaints.
"I think the process that has been put in place made the Auburn family feel we did it right," he said.
Bentley, a graduate of the University of Alabama, flew back to Montgomery to attend the meeting after watching his alma mater win the national football championship Monday night in Miami. He serves as an Auburn trustee and heads the selection committee by virtue of being governor.