June 24, 2004

Interviews set for Public Policy Institute director

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A search committee seeking to fill the Southern Illinois University Public Policy Institute's directorship -- vacated in December when former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon died -- has narrowed the field down to four finalists.

All four, selected from a pool of 17 applicants in a national search -- will interview in the coming weeks on the University's Carbondale campus, headquarters for the Institute.

"I'm impressed with the quality of the candidates," said John M. Dunn, SIUC provost and vice chancellor. "It is our hope to select a finalist who will carry out the vision of the late Sen. Simon while at the same time move the Institute forward." The Institute director reports to Dunn.

Finalists are: Michael "Mike" J. Lawrence, interim director of the institute and University professor; Thomas M. Newcomb, special assistant to the U.S. president for national security affairs; Richard G. Sims, policy director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington, D.C.; and Johnnie Carson, a former ambassador who now is senior vice president of National Defense University, also in the nation's capital.

Search Committee Chair John S. Jackson, also a fellow at the Institute, said he expects the candidates' interviews to be completed by about the end of July. He said the goal is to fill the position by the start of fall semester, or shortly after.

"All the candidates possess good, strong credentials," Jackson said.

A closer look at the finalists:

• Newcomb will be at SIUC for interviews July 7-9. He presently implements and coordinates national counter-terrorism policy as the National Security Council's senior director for combating terrorism.• Lawrence is being interviewed this week. He became the Institute's second in command in 1997, teaches communications classes and stepped up as the Institute's interim director after Simon died.

Lawrence said he would like to see the Institute continue to address issues of importance to the region, the state, the nation and the world.

As Simon's junior partner for six years, Lawrence said he shared his boss's aspirations and resolve to make the Institute a "do" tank rather than a "think" tank.

"The next director should have the demonstrated ability to lead and to manage. He or she should have a vision for how the Institute can grow and prosper. And the next director should have the capability of putting his or her own imprint on the Institute without converting it into an entity Paul would not embrace as his own," Lawrence said.

Before his work at the University, Lawrence was press secretary to former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar for four years. Prior to that, he worked as press secretary to Edgar during six of the ten years Edgar was Illinois' secretary of state. He previously headed news bureaus in the Illinois State House, first for the Quad-City Times and later for Lee Enterprises and the Chicago Sun-Times, and held top editing posts at the Quad-City Times. He got his start covering government news for the Galesburg Register-Mail.

Lawrence attended Knox College, where he also received an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1998.

Prior to his stint in the White House, he advised the U.S. foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on legal affairs, he variously worked as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice's office of intelligence policy and review, served as staff director and legal counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives' permanent select committee on intelligence, was assistant general counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency, a case officer and chief of station for the CIA and a trial attorney in the Minneapolis area.

Newcomb also earned a bronze star and combat infantry badge for ground combat operations in Vietnam when he was a sergeant of infantry with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.

"I believe I would bring to the Institute an expertise in national security issues of immediate concern to national and local policymakers. I have lectured at law schools and graduate schools in the Washington area and believe I could make an ongoing contribution not only to the Institute but to the political science department, the law school and other departments at SIU," Newcomb said.

He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota in 1972 and in 1976 he earned a juris doctorate at University of Minnesota Law School, where he was managing editor of the Minnesota Law Review.

• Sims' visit to campus is still being arranged. He is policy director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, where he guides research on issues related to taxation and its role in state and local economies. Before that, he founded and directed applied economic and policy research for the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Earlier, he worked as senior U.S. adviser to the Parliament of Moldova as the former Communist bloc country adopted democratic reforms. He helped the nation set up its Parliamentary Center for Budgetary and Financial Analysis.

In the decades preceding that, he worked as chief economist, respectively, to Kentucky and Arkansas's legislative research branches. A Kentucky native, he started his career as a research assistant at the University of Kentucky's agriculture and applied economics department.

He also served as a member of state-level regional development commissions and on numerous local and regional commissions.

The Arkansas legislature gave him a meritorious service commendation for creating and leading a statewide long-term employment strategy commission called Jobs for the Future. In addition, he's written numerous research reports and policy studies and worked with various governmental, civic and academic organizations.

Sims earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Murray State University and his doctorate in applied economics at the University of Kentucky.

"I strongly believe that an institution such as the Public Policy Institute can play a profound role in shaping the future of its community and the region," Sims said.

• Carson's appearance at SIUC will be announced later. He is second in command at the National Defense University, home of the National War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and 18 other units. He oversees an international student program that brings in foreign military fellows from around the globe; manages three regional institutes, one each for Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and South Asia; and supervises state department faculty members. In addition, he coordinates the university's relations with the state department and lectures on terrorism, NATO, and various aspects of U.S. foreign policy and Africa-related issues.

Carson previously served as a U.S. ambassador to three African nations, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda and was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

In addition, he worked as deputy chief and later charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Botswana and previously was deputy political counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Portugal.

Carson did stints directing the U.S. House of Representatives' subcommittee on Africa, a state department aide and an officer in U.S. Embassies in Mozambique and Nigeria. He first traveled to Africa as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer.

A native Chicagoan, he earned a bachelor's degree at Drake University in 1965, a master's at the University of London in 1975 and a diploma from the senior seminar on foreign policy from the Department of State's Foreign Service Institute in 1991.

"I believe strongly in the value of public service and the importance of informed public policy in helping to improve government, public services and the lives of ordinary citizens," Sims said.

"I would like to draw on my own broad experiences in government to help educate future government leaders and public officials as well as to actively contribute to some of the current policy departments," he added