One of the Legislature's biennial mini-dramas commences Thursday with a joint meeting of the House and Senate's higher education finance committees. It's time to elect four members of the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents. The joint committee's charge is to recommend candidates to a joint convention of the Legislature next month.

I asked a former regent, who asked not to be named, what he would advise the Legislature about the board's talent needs this year. He noted that it's likely that the next board will likely shoulder the biggest responsibility a governing board faces -- the hiring of a new CEO. President Robert Bruininks, 67, has not announced a retirement date, but he's believed to be past the midpoint of his tenure at the university's helm.

"Look for regents who have experience governing complex institutions, and know something about hiring executives," my source said. "And look for people who are capable of serving as chair of the board." During a presidential transition, the regents' chair plays a prominent role. He or she need to be capable of inspiring public trust, especially if an initial search goes awry. 

Those ideas triggered memories of the advice once given by one of the university's most respected regents, former Gov. Elmer Andersen. He said regents should approach their governing task with the goal not of managing the university, but nurturing it. Legislators might ask regents' candidates whether they agree, and whether they understand the difference.