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John Sharp named sole candidate for A&M System chancellor

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 15, 2011 at 3:15 a.m.

In their first public hearing, the newly created school finance panel lead by former comptroller John Sharp listened to a number of Victoria area administrators and lawmakers talk about the current school funding issues in 2005.

In their first public hearing, the newly created school finance panel lead by former comptroller John Sharp listened to a number of Victoria area administrators and lawmakers talk about the current school funding issues in 2005.

Placedo native John Sharp has bled maroon since his school days in College Station. And now is his chance to return to his collegiate stomping grounds.

Sharp on Monday was named sole finalist for chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, the board of regents announced Monday. The decision becomes final in 21 days.

"Everything I've ever done and accomplished has been because of Texas A&M University," he said. "The chance to go back there and sort of make it an even greater system is something I never dreamed I'd have the opportunity to do."

Sharp has a history with the university.

He graduated from Bloomington High School in 1968 and went on to Texas A&M, where he majored in political science. A member of the Corps of Cadets, he served as sophomore class president and, in the 1971-72 school year, was student body president.

Sharp said he plans to begin working with stakeholders and university presidents Tuesday, determining what problems and opportunities exist. From there, he can begin making improvements.

"Anybody makes a mistake if they ... go into an institution thinking they know everything that exists," he said.

The chancellor serves as chief executive officer for the system, said Sharp, whose career includes a role as state comptroller, railroad commissioner and seats with both the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate.

He works in Austin as a principal for Ryan, a tax services firm.

The A&M System will be the true beneficiary if Sharp is selected chancellor, said Dennis Patillo, president of Stewart Title. He was a tremendous servant to Texas during his days as comptroller and with both the state House and Senate, he said.

It is difficult to say whether it would play a role in the University of Houston-Victoria's possible switch to the A&M System, however, Patillo said, explaining the chancellor takes direction from the board of regents.

"I certainly can't think that, if changing systems is, in fact, the right thing to do, his involvement would be anything but a positive," he said.

It's too early to know whether Sharp's new role would affect the UHV system outcome, Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong said, noting that, while there was a bill regarding the issue in the house, it was stalled.

"It's hard to see into the future," Armstrong said. "I'd rather wait a little bit until John gets his feet wet. Until a little bit of time passes."

He echoed others, saying Sharp has maintained a strong allegiance to the community and served Victoria well.

"I think it's a tremendous benefit to A&M," Armstrong said. "I'm sure that all the Aggies are excited, and I'm excited for them."

The possible switch is something Sharp said he would certainly look into. Although he had not yet talked to the board members, he said it was no secret he was part of the group working to get the A&M system to do just that.

Sharp, a Democrat, continued rising through political ranks over time, despite Texas' reputation as a Republican state. That success likely comes because of his conservative fiscal attitude, said Rep. Geanie Morrison.

"This has always been a conservative area," she said. "He's represented this area. No matter what position he's put in, he's done a good job."

Morrison said that fiscal responsibility, as well as his experiences with higher education and business management, make him a great asset for the A&M system.

It bodes well for the Crossroads, too, she said.

"He knows the area well, he knows the people well and he will be an excellent, excellent chancellor for A&M," Morrison said. "I'm just thrilled he's being considered, and I look forward to working with him."

Sharp said he is excited to make his way to College Station and begin his new role.

"We're going to advance the cause of Aggieland and the System," he said.

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