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UT Regents Elect New Chair

Paul Foster will take over as chairman of the UT System Board of Regents after August meeting.

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Friday El Paso businessman Paul Foster was elected to replace Gene Powell as Chairman of the UT System Board of Regents.

No one is leaving the Board, this is simply a reshuffling of positions, as Powell was elected First vice chairman of the board. Regent Steve Hicks, a strong supporter of the systems flagship University, UT-Austin, was also elected as a vice chair.

As far a reading the tea leaves as to how Foster's ascension to the chair effects the tension between some members of the board and the systems flagship -- UT Austin, the consensus seems to be that this move could signal the possibility of improving relations between lawmakers and the board. During his Senate confirmation hearing for re-appointment to the board Foster indicated he was ready to move past the controversy.

"I'm committed to that," he told reporters after being voted into his new position. "I'm committed to trying to move this system forward and get passed some of the distractions that we've had and to get everyone working on the same page. I'm confident we can do it."

Those distractions are still evident as some legislators press forward with their investigation into the actions of Regent Wallace Hall, who has been especially vocal over UT Austin President William Powers' handling of his office.

There have been dueling records requests to the system and regents -- Hall asking for copious materials on Powers, UT Austin and legislators, while  legislators have filed their own requests looking into Hall.

State Senator Judith Zaqffirini, D-Laredo, sent a letter to the system this week, expressing here concern  that Hall's requests were getting preferential treatment.

On another front, the supporters of Powers in the legislature are losing a key ally.

State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, a powerful member of the House when it comes to  writing the state budget,  announced he will not seek re-election in 2014.

Pitts has been an outspoken defender of Powers and UT Austin, and is one of the leaders into the investigation of possibly bringing articles of impeachment against Regent Hall.