A Democratic strategist and businesswoman, a student building a resume in local government and a veteran higher education professional are vying for the open seat on the university system Board of Regents seat in District 6.
Incumbent Patrick Carter is not running for re-election to the non-partisan board.
Heather Brown, 36, a former chief of staff for the Young Democrats of America who worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, said she wants to bring decorum, ethics and stability to the board, which has been marred by infighting in recent months that led to the abrupt departure of the university system’s chancellor, Melody Rose.
“I don’t think our education system should suffer because of political divides and a North-South battle,” she said. “We’re supposed to represent the whole state.”
Brown, a Las Vegas native and UNLV graduate with a political science degree, is the president and co-founder of Startup Vegas, a nonprofit business that creates networking opportunities for fledgling tech companies in Southern Nevada.
She wants to work toward trimming the “extra fat” from the Nevada System of Higher Education and give the institutions more autonomy to lobby for funding at the Legislature.
“There’s so much mismanagement of money, and I don’t know if these decisions are being made for political reasons or for what’s best for the system,” she said.
Karl Catarata, 24, a Las Vegas native and senior at UNLV, says he’s the only undergraduate student to run for the Board of Regents in Nevada history. He’s majoring in political science.
“Nevadans have choices,” he said. “They can choose the status quo or a fresh perspective, and that’s why a student or a young person should join the ranks of the Board of Regents.”
Catarata said he has worked in local government circles since his days at Valley High School. He was on the staff of Las Vegas Councilman Brian Knudsen and an intern at the Clark County assessor’s office.
He also has spent time working for U.S. Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., as a district representative and case worker and such charitable organizations as the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Boys Clubs of America.
“I’m community minded, results oriented and I will ensure that my government experience leads to getting results for Nevadans,” Catarata said.
He hopes to make college more affordable and accessible to students and help repair the relationship between higher education and the regents.
Catarata also has been a mentor to the state’s youth, serving as the youngest appointed chairman of the Nevada Commission on Mentoring, which works with the Nevada Department of Education.
“If you want a leader who knows what they’re doing and knows how to get things done, look no further,” he says on his campaign website.
Jeanine Dakduk, 37, is a consultant who has spent 15 years in higher education at several institutions, including UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno.
She has a bachelor of arts degree in history from Northern Illinois University and a masters in educational leadership from UNLV. Much of her career has been devoted to being an academic advisor coaching students on their way to getting a degree.
Dakduk did not want to be interviewed, but in a statement said: “I believe Nevada’s System of Higher Education will benefit from having an experienced administrator’s perspective on the Board of Regents.”
On her campaign website, she says she is not seeking endorsements or campaign contributions and only plans to serve one, six-year term.
“A public board is the last place to look for individual accomplishments,” she said in her statement. “No single regent should expect accolades or credit for the system’s achievements. A stable and credible board will have fewer media stories about personal thoughts or rifts between factions.”
Dakduk intends to work toward broadening Nevada’s higher education system to meet the demands of the state’s growing workforce and ensuring that students get a “high-quality education at an affordable price.”
The fourth candidate in the race, Brandin Manwill, could not be reached by telephone and did not respond to email requests for an interview. He does not list a campaign website in online records with the Clark County Elections Department.