Bullock names Billings lawyer, D.A. Davidson CEO to Montana Board of Regents

2014-03-19T17:15:00Z 2014-03-20T13:29:06Z Bullock names Billings lawyer, D.A. Davidson CEO to Montana Board of RegentsBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Gov. Steve Bullock announced on Wednesday the appointments of Martha Sheehy and Bill Johnstone to the Montana University System Board of Regents, filling seats vacant since earlier this year.

The appointments fill seats opened by former regents Todd Buchanan, whose term expired, and Angela McLean, former board chair who Bullock named as lieutenant governor in February.

The seven-member board oversees the governance and administration of the Montana University System, which includes management of the public higher education institutions across Montana, their nearly 50,000 students and 8,000 employees and the system's $1.5 billion budget.

Sheehy is a Billings-based attorney who earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Montana in 1985 and 1988, respectively.

"I’m very anxious to serve on the board of regents," she said. "I think it’s a very interesting way to serve the state government."

She has served as president of the State Bar of Montana, on numerous state and federal justice committees and a number of social services boards.

After Wednesday's announcement, Sheehy said she's looking forward getting started on the board. She described education as "the one area of Montana life that has a continuum of impact" and said that serving on the board allows her to work to ensure that education in Montana continues to remain relevant for current, past and future students.

"I like my degree to mean something," she said. "It only means what the university means to Montana right now."

Bill Johnstone, who lives in Bozeman and has offices in Great Falls, is a Montana native and chairman and CEO of D.A. Davidson Companies.

He said on Wednesday that education has always been important in his family, with his father serving as a school superintendent and administrator over the years.

"I’m honored by the appointment," Johnstone said. "I come from a family where education is very important. I grew up in an education family and I benefited from education and higher education in Montana."

He graduated from Bozeman Senior High in 1962, earned a bachelor's degree at Montana State University in 1966 and earned his law degree in 1969 from the University of Minnesota Law School.

He serves as chair-elect of the Securities and Financial Markets Association's board of directors in Washington, D.C., and New York City and will be named as its chair in November.

Johnstone also serves on the International Heart Institute's board of directors and has chaired or been a member of numerous boards and groups, many of them focusing on education. They include the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Montana State University Foundation, the University of Montana and Minnesota law schools' boards of visitors and the Great Falls Development Authority.

Both new appointments said that they want to get more familiar with the board and it's intracacies before identifying specific issues they hope to address as regents.

"Mostly, right now I want to learn more," Johnstone said. "I need to learn more about what the issues are that the board faces. I just feel so strongly about the mission of higher education that I know I can help out in some way."

The new regents' appointments will be up for confirmation during the next session of the Montana Legislature. The positions are unpaid.

Bullock's office did not comment on the announcements and Regent Paul Tuss, who serves as interim chair until a new chair is elected later this year, was not available for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

Editor's note: Sheehy has represented the Billings Gazette in several legal matters.

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