photo of brick building with green roof on Georgia Tech campus
ATLANTA: "Tech Tower" at the Georgia Institute of Technology, part of the University System of Georgia. The historic Atlanta landmark was completed in 1888. (Rob Hainer/Shutterstock)

ATLANTA (AP) — Teresa MacCartney will be the acting chancellor of Georgia’s university system as regents remain at an apparent impasse over efforts to name former Gov. Sonny Perdue as the leader of 26 universities and colleges.

Regents voted unanimously Wednesday to name MacCartney to take the reins from outgoing Chancellor Steve Wrigley when he retires June 30.

But the “acting” title could signify that they expect MacCartney, now the system’s executive vice chancellor of administration, to hold the post for only a short while. Otherwise, she might have been given an interim title, as Wrigley was given before regents decided he should lead the system permanently.

Regents met by videoconference and weren’t available for questions. A spokesperson for the system couldn’t immediately answer how long MacCartney was expected to lead the 340,000-student system, although regents said in a news release that the search for a permanent chancellor continues.

“As a member of the university system’s senior leadership team and a veteran public servant, she will keep a steady hand on USG’s progress as the board finds the next chancellor of one of the top university systems in the nation,” board Chairman Sachin Shailendra said in a statement.

MacCartney will make $438,000 a year for as long as she holds the post. As executive vice chancellor, she oversees cybersecurity, leadership and institutional development, economic development, legal affairs, human resources, real estate, buildings, internal audits and security.

She was state budget director under Gov. Nathan Deal before moving to the university system post in 2019. Before that, she had worked for the state Department of Education and the Georgia Student Finance Commission, which administers lottery scholarship money.

“I appreciate the Board’s confidence in me to ensure USG and our 26 institutions remain focused during this transition on doing all we can to help more Georgians’ earn their college degrees,” MacCartney said in a statement.

Wednesday’s meeting followed a nearly two-hour meeting Monday behind closed doors to discuss the chancellor search. In May, regents hired a new search firm after the previous search firm quit, citing “misinformation.” The new search firm was supposed to reexamine existing candidates and recruit new ones. But regents agreed to name a temporary leader if they couldn’t find a permanent one by June 30.

Perdue has said he is interested in the job, telling The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a June 3 interview, “It’s safe to say I’m willing to serve. The governor and I had a conversation about it. I felt like it was probably, in this stage of my life, the only job in Georgia I felt like I was passionate about and that I would accept.”

Regents paused the search in April as contention spread about the possibility of naming Perdue. The agency that accredits all the schools sent a letter on April 26 asking whether there has been undue political pressure to appoint Perdue. A recent public records request by The Associated Press shows regents never responded to that letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Perdue was a two-term governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Donald Trump. A group called Students Against Sonny launched earlier this year, promoting a petition urging regents to reject him and holding two anti-Perdue rallies.

Critics say Perdue had a bad record as governor of reducing student access to higher education. Perdue’s efforts to help Trump fight his 2020 electoral loss to Democratic President Joe Biden also prompted questions.

MacCartney is a known quantity with lawmakers, with Kaleb McMichen, the spokesperson for House Speaker David Ralston issuing a statement congratulating her.

“Her experience is unmatched and her dedication to this state and its young people is unquestionable,” McMichen said.

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