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Three appointed to UWA board: Two nominees, including Ken Tucker, of Demopolis, skipped by Senate

The Alabama Senate approved three of Gov. Bob Riley’s five nominees for the University of West Alabama Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

John Northcutt, president of Robertson Banking Co. in Demopolis, was confirmed to the board by the Senate Confirmations Committee and the full body of the Alabama Senate on Tuesday. Two other nominees, Thomas Ballow Jr., of Montgomery, and Margaret Lovett, of Tuscumbia, also were confirmed.

But Ken Tucker, a Demopolis resident and Marengo County Commissioner, and Foy Tatum, of Montgomery, were skipped by the Senate Confirmations Committee.

State Sen. Charles Steele, D-Tuscaloosa, and State Sen. E.B. McClain, D-Bessemer, did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday night. However, both have indicated in previous statements that they have concerns over the racial makeup of Riley’s nominees. All five nominees are white.

“It’s something we need to look at not just here, but in all of Alabama,” Steele said.

And when asked if diversity would play a role in the confirmation of board members, Steele earlier suggested that it would come into play.

McClain serves as chairman of the Senate Confirmations Committee. Steele also serves on the committee that either approves or rejects nominees to boards across the state.

In media reports Tuesday, Steele and McClain indicated “concern” about having a minority in one of the board positions.

On Tuesday, the Riley administration did not have a strong statement either way in regards to the confirmation committee’s decision to approve three of the five nominees. One counselor to Riley told the Associated Press that there was no agreement to switch nominees.

Where this leaves the UWA Board of Trustees is still unknown. Terry Bunn, Dwight Duke, Paul Hamrick, Robert Keahey and Nat Watkins all officially rotated off the board in December 2003, but it is unclear which new board members will replace which exiting board members.

Earlier this month, existing members of the UWA board settled a long-running dispute between two factions that divided the board. Without taking the dispute to court, the majority faction — led by Preston “Mann” Minus — and the minority faction — led by Dr. Tom Umphrey — resolved questions over who will lead the UWA Board of Trustees.

According to Riley spokesman John Matson, the five new nominees were chosen because they would fit well on a board that needed to smooth existing difference.

“The Governor has appointed able people,” Matson said.

Northcutt and Tucker were not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.