Outside the PSU at Missouri State University, there is a large bear statue.
Missouri State University (Photo by Dean Curtis)

Like many businesses and employers, the Missouri State University Board of Governors faces a staffing shortage — two board seats are vacant. 

Shortly before the Republican primary for Missouri’s 7th Congressional District, Jay Wasson, runner-up candidate of that race, relinquished his position on the board. His term wasn’t supposed to expire until 2025.

“To my knowledge, it is vacant and Sen. Wasson has told me that his plan was to roll on,” Clif Smart, president of the university, told the Daily Citizen.

The board consists of 10 members: one, non-voting student member who serves a two-year term and at least one person from each of the state’s eight congressional districts, with one district (previously the 7th) represented by two members.

Of the nine non-student members, the bylaws disallow more than five of the same political identity to each serve six-year terms. The bylaws also say no more than three term expirations may occur in a given year. 

Board members are appointed by Missouri’s governor. They undergo an application process upon the consent and advice of the Missouri Senate. However, since the Missouri General Assembly is not currently in session, Gov. Mike Parson can appoint a new member, and the Senate will have 30 days to act on the appointment when it reconvenes for the next session. 

Smart said he encourages good people to apply, but he was not at liberty to discuss names of potential successors publicly.

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Wasson, the former Nixa mayor, 16-year state legislator and recipient of the Government Excellence Award from the University in 2018, was appointed to the board on Jan. 7, 2020, and scheduled to serve until New Year’s Day in 2025.

“We are grateful for Senator Wasson’s continual support,” Smart said in a news release in 2018. “He looks toward the future, and he sees the value that higher education provides in improving the state. Then he fights to invest in that future.”

Prior to his run for Congress, Wasson considered himself “retired” from politics, although he initially remained on the board while he remained involved in real estate development.

“I thought I’d retired,” Wasson said. “I was fishing and learning to play golf.”

Disagreements with how some matters were being handled at the federal level led Wasson to announce his bid for the Republican nomination, which potentially played a factor in his eventual resignation from the board. 

The Springfield Daily Citizen reached out to Wasson for comment, but he did not respond. 

“He was on our board for two and a half years, he was a great member,” Smart said. “I think he enjoyed being on [the board], he supported the University with his own money and participated, and I don’t really know the full reason for his decision to move on. I was disappointed by it because, again, I thought he was a really great board member.”

In addition to the vacancy Wasson’s departure creates, the student member’s seat has been empty since Briar A. Douglas’ graduation from Missouri State in May, which disqualified him from a continued tenure. That seat, however, while appointed by the governor, will have candidates recommended by the Student Government Association. 

With two open seats on the board, including one where the holder has the ability to vote on resolutions, there are currently only eight board members. In the event of a tie vote, a resolution will fail, as it requires the vote of a majority to pass. 

Smart did not publicly estimate when the seats will be filled. Smart said the governor could appoint someone any day, “next week,” or “next month.” 

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at jmcgee@sgfcitizen.org or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee