The University of Arkansas announced today that Chancellor David Gearhart had picked Randy Massanelli, state director for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, to succeed the retiring Richard Hudson as vice chancellor for governmental relations, or lobbyist, for the Fayetteville campus. He was chosen over Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home, who decided not to seek re-election so he could vie for the job, and Mac Campbell, a former aide to Sen. Blanche Lincoln and top Senate committee staffer.

Finalists were selected by a screening committee. I’ve thought Key was a lock for the job, given the rising Republican tide in the legislature and his own good connections through some past political activities to the wealthy Walton interests, who play an important role as major benefactor to UA. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I have small wagers to pay off.


Massanelli came with some powerful friends, too. His boss’ father, David Pryor, sits on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.

He’ll be paid $175,000, a UA spokesman said. Hudson, who retires July 31, made about $200,000.


We’ll never know, but I can’t believe the scandal surrounding senator-turned-UCA-lobbyist Gilbert Baker — even the mere fact of taking a senator who’d presided over higher education appropriations in the current legislature as the UA’s next lobbyist — might have given Gearhart pause about selecting Key. (Who, by the way, is no Gilbert Baker and I mean that in a positive way.)

The University release said:


Randy Massanelli, the state director for U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, has been named vice chancellor for governmental relations by University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart, effective July 1.

Richard Hudson, who currently holds the vice chancellor position, is retiring July 31.

The vice chancellor for governmental relations coordinates University of Arkansas activities related to government organizations on a local, state and federal level and works with civic organizations and our state and congressional delegations in Arkansas and Washington, D.C.

“Randy comes to us highly regarded, with a strong track record of accomplishment working with all levels of government and all political parties,” Gearhart said. “His experience with Arkansas politics will help us not only continue, but deepen, our relationships with our state lawmakers. My charge to the search committee was to find someone who could not only foster good relations with elected officials at the local, state and federal level, but who would also be effective in making the case and building support for our institutional priorities. The committee advanced three incredibly qualified finalists, each with strong credentials and experience. It was a close race and at the end of the day, Randy edged out the others with his federal government experience. Richard’s are big shoes to fill, and I’m confident Randy will ensure a smooth transition.”

“I am humbled and honored to be selected as the next vice chancellor for governmental relations,” Massanelli said. “I am proud to be working for my alma mater and am eager to do my best for the university and our state.”

In addition to Massanelli, the other two finalists were:

· Mac Campbell, a former aide to Sen. Blanche Lincoln and deputy staff director of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee

· Sen. Johnny Key (R-Mountain Home), who served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2003-2009 and in the state Senate since 2009.

Massanelli has served as state director for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor since 2002. In that capacity, he is responsible for public affairs, communications and messaging as well as field and outreach activities with constituents. Prior to that, he served as Pryor’s campaign manager in 2001-2002 and was director of operations for the Arkansas attorney general’s office. Massanelli had an extensive military career in the U.S. Army, earning many honors including the Bronze Star for service in the Persian Gulf War and numerous service and commendation medals. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a bachelor of science in business administration.

The finalists each met separately with the chancellor, as well as a number of other vice chancellors and other individuals on and off campus.

“I’d like to thank the search committee members for their due diligence and thorough effort researching, vetting and narrowing the talented pool of candidates,” said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. “I appreciate the time, service and sincerity with which they approached their task.”

The search committee included the following members:
· Kathy Van Laningham, vice provost for institutional research, committee chair
· Jerry Adams, president and CEO, Arkansas Research Alliance
· Lynda Coon, professor, department of history
· Steve Higginbothom, former state senator, District 16
· Stacy Leeds, dean, School of Law
· Katy Nelson-Ginder, assistant vice chancellor for university development
· Charles Robinson, vice chancellor for diversity and community
· Melissa Rust, vice president for university relations, University of Arkansas System
· Gary Smith, president, Glass Erectors

Of the 33 total applicants for the position, five were invited to campus to interview with the search committee, and three were chosen from among that group as finalist