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Wednesday, February 1,2012

Back for the board

Ferguson to run for fourth term on MSU Board of Trustees

by Kyle Melinn

The boss is looking to come back.

Joel Ferguson, chairman of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees for the past six years, announced Wednesday that he’s running for a fourth term. 

Ferguson, a Democrat, says he still feels like he’s adding value to the university’s eight-member governing board. He enjoys what he’s doing and, at age 73, Ferguson is still viewed as the public face and leader of the statewide elected board.

“Now isn’t the time to lose the institutional memory of the board,” he said. “We need to continue to get things done. … MSU must keep its sights on ensuring that this great university is available, accessible and affordable to students of all income levels.”

The founder of two television stations in Lansing, WFSL-47 and WLAJ-53, Ferguson has had high praise for MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. By all accounts, the two work well together.

The Michigan Democratic Party is scheduled to endorse candidates for several down-ballot slots, including MSU trustees, at an early convention in March. For the second straight election cycle, the MDP will officially nominate the candidates who will appear on the Democratic ticket in August or September.

But in order to give its eventual nominees a leg up in the fundraising and name recognition categories, it’s giving candidates the informal nod early. The eight-year term will run from 2013 to 2020.

Ferguson is a virtual lock to win one of two spots on the 2012 ballot for Democrats. Board Vice Chairwoman Melanie Foster, a Republican, is also up for re-election. The only other known candidate for the Democratic nomination is Brian Mosallam, a former co-captain on the 1996 MSU football team and current group adviser for AXA Advisors. Ferguson said he’s supporting Mosallam’s nomination as well.

Earlier this year, a movement to get Cal Rapson — the former No. 2 at UAW International — to run never got off the ground.

Ferguson’s decision doesn’t come as an enormous surprise. Last year, the president of Lansing-based Ferguson Development told the Michigan Gaming Control Board he would not step down from the MSU board — a decision that cost him the opportunity to serve on the Greektown Casino Board. The Greektown position would have paid him $210,000 in stock and benefits immediately and $85,000 annually for five board meetings a year. State law bans elected officials from serving on casino boards.

Ferguson was the first African American elected to the Lansing City Council and the Ingham County Board of Supervisors. He piloted Jesse Jackson’s statewide win in the Democratic presidential primary and has run for Lansing mayor and the U.S. Senate.

Ferguson first won a seat on the MSU board in 1986. He was knocked off in 1994 when Democrats struggled during then-Gov. John Englerīs re-election campaign. Ferguson ran again in 1996, and with Bill Clinton topping the ticket, he won a second term on the board.

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