January 26, 2023
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Editorial: Napolitano is a savvy candiate to lead UC


Here are five reasons why outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano looks like a smart pick as the next University of California president.

At press time, the UC Board of Regents was scheduled to vote on Napolitano’s nomination by a selection committee. She is a Democrat who was an effective governor in Arizona where the GOP has an edge with voters. Here’s why we think this nonconventional choice might work out:

1. She is a woman and a Washington insider. As Homeland Security Secretary her main job was to go to Capitol Hill and get the money she needs to keep America safe — albeit annoyed at the TSA — every time we fly.

The capitol city is a huge source of funding for the UC system, particularly for labs and engineering programs, and here Napolitano will have three powerful allies who are women — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

2. Napolitano is not from Los Angeles or San Francisco or Sacramento. She brings a fresh perspective to the ego battles as the big UC powers —Berkeley and UCLA — battle against each other or join forces to battle against the smaller campuses, including UC Santa Barbara. And don’t get us started on Sacramento.

3. Napolitano is a former governor and knows how to steer a big bureaucracy.  The UC president doesn’t actually run the campuses but he or she can tug and nudge the system. That’s not unlike a governor in Arizona, where power is very decentralized, or cabinet member who will never outlast career bureaucrats.

4. She has plenty of role models. Nontraditional candidates have been taking the top jobs at major universities. Former Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala now heads the University of Miami; Former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles ran the University of North Carolina.

5. She is getting mixed reviews in the media. Media critiques are positive for her because they lower expectations. A few pro-Napolitano, including Bloomberg News columnist Al Hunt, argue that her résumé gives her a shot at being successful.