University officials announced yesterday that Barrie Wilkes, vice president of financial services and reporting, will succeed soon-to-be retired David Burdette for the university’s chief financial position.
However, nobody should be surprised.
As VP of Financial Services and Reporting, Wilkes oversaw five offices related to finance at Central Michigan University – even serving in Burdette’s role during the interim in 2007-08.
He was highly involved in day-to-day financial operations and his office was largely responsible for pressuring the state of Michigan for financial appropriations.
A search committee found six applicants for the position. After three voluntarily dropped out and one was eliminated by the committee, only two remained for the public open forums: Barrie Wilkes and Sue Fuciarelli.
While open forums are important for transparency and the concept of shared governance, Wilkes was clearly the favorite for this position before the event even began.
With 32 years of financial service experience and 21 years working with CMU, Wilkes practically blows Fuciarelli’s 23 years of out-of-state financial experience out of the water.
During the open forums, Wilkes had a distinct advantage: Local experience.
Wilkes can personally speak to the financial history of CMU, has witnessed the decline in enrollment first-hand, and has worked within the state for his entire adult life.
Fuciarelli, on the other hand, could only venture guesses to the framework of Michigan’s economy, let alone the inner workings of CMU.
While the outside perspective she offered from a similar position at Valdosta State University had the potential to be valuable, it was Wilkes’ local, CMU experience that made the decision a no-brainer.
It’s important to recognize that Wilkes’ experiences are finely tailored to the university, but he was still a key player during this years’ budget cuts and for all three years of enrollment declines.
While state appropriations have increased slightly in recent years, they still account for only 21.8 percent of CMU’s revenue – a stark contrast from 53 percent in 1999, or even the 37 percent in 2006 – 14 years after Wilkes arrived at CMU.
If Wilkes plans to bring change to the university – touting transparency and community relations at his open forums – a clear, focused and widely-available plan on improving CMU’s budget is an absolute necessity.
Time will only tell if he will be able to deliver.