New chairman in Texas
The embattled Texas state board of education begins 1999 with a new chairman hand-picked by Gov. George W. Bush to replace Jack Christie, who resigned last month after four years in the post.
Chase Untermeyer, who was the White House personnel director under the governor's father, President George Bush, was sworn in as the chairman of the 15-member board at its Jan. 7 meeting in Austin.
His predecessor, Mr. Christie, was barred from serving another year as board chairman, although his board term did not expire until January 2001. But, by retiring he allowed the GOP governor to look beyond the socially conservative Republicans on the board for a new chair.
Mr. Bush did just that, even though Republicans hold a majority on the panel. That was not surprising, however, since Mr. Bush has been at odds with a six-member bloc of social conservatives on the board over curriculum and textbook issues.
Mr. Untermeyer, also a Republican, hopes to improve board relations and has already met individually with several of its members. "I'm a disciple of President Bush, who taught me if you start off a job like this seeking collaboration, you'll probably get it," Mr. Untermeyer said in an interview.
A state representative from 1977 to 1981, Mr. Untermeyer will step down as a member of the National Public Radio board of directors to take over the education post. The new chairman lives in Houston, where he is the government-affairs director for Compaq Computer Corp.
In a statement, Gov. Bush praised the 52-year-old chairman as a "conservative thinker who will bring new leadership to the state board of education."
Mr. Untermeyer, who is married and has a 5-year-old daughter, is also getting a warm response from at least one board member.
"I think he will be a positive step toward decreasing the polarization on the board," said Robert H. Offutt, a Republican who has often sparred with Mr. Christie, a GOP moderate, over school policy issues. "The leadership he has displayed in getting the governor's confidence will serve him well."
--Robert C. Johnston email@example.com
Vol. 18, Issue 18, Page 16