ST. LOUIS — U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof on Wednesday confirmed what he called “a poorly guarded secret” — he is a finalist to become the next University of Missouri System president.
In a written statement issued soon after his confidential interview with a 19-member advisory panel, the Republican congressman from Columbia said he is “humbled to be one of the candidates for this important post.”
“I consider this position a rare opportunity to extend this service in a unique way. It is one of the very few jobs for which I would consider leaving Congress,” said Hulshof, a former special state prosecutor who has served in Congress since 1996.
Hulshof’s acknowledgment capped several weeks of mounting speculation surrounding his interest in succeeding Elson Floyd, who departed in April to become president of Washington State University.
The Associated Press was shown a copy of a memo that said the advisory panel was scheduled to interview “three finalists” under consideration to succeed Floyd. The university publicly confirmed the number of finalists late Wednesday.
Hulshof also addressed concerns that taking the job could inject politics into the state’s higher education system.
“I have assured curators and the advisory committee that my intense dedication to guarding the interests of this university would not be colored by political bias,” he said. “The University of Missouri should not be used as a political football between warring factions on any one issue. The independence of the university must be fiercely protected.”
In Washington, Hulshof regularly sided with conservative Republicans opposed to efforts to broaden embryonic stem cell research, a procedure being conducted in limited form at the system’s flagship Columbia campus.
Hulshof, a Columbia resident who received his bachelor’s degree from MU, also cited family considerations as a factor in his decision.