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BOARD OF REGENTS DISTRICT 13

By RICHARD LAKE
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

The race for the District 13 seat on the Board of Regents includes the current board chairman, who is a lawyer, another lawyer, and a former firefighter.

James Dean Leavitt has served as the board’s chairman for one year. He will face Parviz Aaron Heshmati and Joe Pitts.

Leavitt is an attorney in private practice. He earned his bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Brigham Young University and his law degree at the University of Idaho. He has taught part time at UNLV.

He said he wants to remain on the board because he is a strong advocate for higher education.

“We need to have people that are going to advocate for proper funding of higher education throughout the state,” he said.

As chairman, he said he has a unique opportunity to spread that message.

He said his top priority if re-elected will be to lobby lawmakers for adequate funding of the higher education system.

Much of Leavitt’s time on the board has been consumed with state budget cuts. He said that situation can be turned around if the public understands how crucial a quality higher education system is to the state.

“We have the ability in higher education to change lives one student at a time,” he said. “The entire state benefits when students graduate from our institutions.”

Heshmati earned his bachelor’s degree from UNLV in accounting and is a recent graduate of UNLV’s law school. He is in private practice.

He said he is running for the board because the system needs to change the direction it has been heading in. He is most concerned about budget cuts, which have been mandated by the Legislature.

Heshmati did not have much time to talk, and did not return messages seeking further comment.

On his website, he lists budget shortfalls, the establishment of a mentoring system in partnership with K-12 schools, expanding financial aid and increasing access for underrepresented populations as among his highest priorities.

Pitts worked for the city of Henderson for 25 years and served in the Air Force. He is a former firefighter and plasterer.

Pitts said he has two associate degrees from the College of Southern Nevada, a bachelor’s degree in political science from UNLV and worked one year toward a master’s degree in public administration at UNLV.

He said his top priority will be to keep the system from sinking like the Titanic during budget cuts, which he expects more of next year.

He said he would push to cut athletic programs that do not pay their own way and wants to end hosting accounts for regents. Though regents are not salaried and earn only $80 per meeting, they can spend up to $2,500 each per year on dinners and other expenses.

Pitts said he also wants to increase retention of students, particularly Hispanics, who he sees as a major factor in Nevada’s future growth. He backs increasing distance education programs and increasing the number of graduates in the medical fields.