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Regent Mark Killian to fight for education from alternate platform

Courtesy+of+Arizona+Department+of+AgricultureMark+Killian%2C+director+of+the+Arizona+Department+of+Agriculture.

Courtesy of Arizona Department of Agriculture

Mark Killian, director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

Regent Mark Killian stepped down from the Arizona Board of Regents last month after serving on the board since 2010.

Killian’s resignation came roughly five months after Gov. Doug Ducey appointed him director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

“The department of agriculture has gone through a lot of stresses in the past 10 years. They’ve cut a lot of money out of the agency, but they have not reduced the workload and there are a lot of things going on right now in the agriculture industry in Arizona. Most people don’t realize that it is a $17 billion industry,” Killian said, outlining his reasons for leaving the board of regents. “The department of agriculture is charged with protecting that industry and protecting the public; it’s a dual role.”

For the first five months in his new position, Killian served both as the director of the department of agriculture and on the board of regents. Both organizations have had heavy budget cuts levied against them in recent years.

“Something had to give and I came to the realization that I was not irreplaceable on the board of regents,” Killian said. “I’m not the only person that suggested that we need to put more money into universities, and I felt that the appropriate thing to do would be to back off of the board of regents because there’s a lot of very well qualified, good people who could probably do a better job than I did with the regents.”

Killian made a name for himself with the regents as a fierce proponent of public education. He focused his efforts on the subject of affordability, culminating in 2014 when he suggested that the regents sue “not just the governor, but everybody,” under the pretense that the state wasn’t upholding its constitutional obligation to make education as free as possible.

Killian said he plans to continue to be an outspoken voice for post-secondary education even though he has moved on from the board.

Student Regent Mark Naufel thinks Killian will continue his fight to better the state of education in Arizona.

“Obviously, Regent Killian is going to continue to serve the people of Arizona, just in a different capacity,” Naufel said. “He’s got such a servants heart; he’s the kind of guy that doesn’t even need a position to serve the state. I think he just has a love for public service and a love for the community as a whole. … I’m just grateful for the time I’ve spent with him over the past few years.”

Killian said he thinks his lack of hesitation when it came to voicing his opinion is part of the reason Gov. Ducey appointed him to his position at the department of agriculture. He said that just like education, agriculture is an industry he feels is highly underrated.

“I think that’s another reason why the agriculture people asked me to take the job: because they think I am an articulate spokesman that can— just like with the universities—help the agriculture community articulate what it means to Arizona, … and I’m humbled by that,” Killian said.

The governor will be appointing a replacement for Killian according to Julie Newberg, communications manager for the board of regents.


Follow Sam Gross on Twitter.


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