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2009 November 4 - 12:00 am

Ala. Board Picks Hill As New Alabama 2-Year Chancellor

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The State Board of Education picked a Georgia educator to become chancellor of Alabama's two-year college system and help lead it back from a financial scandal that brought down a former chancellor.

Freida Hill, deputy commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, was unanimously chosen by the nine-member board. Women have served as interim chancellors in the past but Hill is the first female to hold the position on a permanent basis.

The board's chairman, Gov. Bob Riley, said he talked to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue before deciding to support Hill.

“I'm not too sure I've ever heard someone as highly recommended,” Riley said.

The other finalists for the job were John Osborn, the director of academic programs and policy for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Rose Johnson, the president of Haywood Community College in Clyde, N.C.

Hill, who holds a doctorate in adult education from the University of Georgia, has spent most of her career in education, beginning as a high school English teacher in Maryville, Tenn., in 1973.

She became deputy commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia in February 2008. Prior to that, she served as assistant commissioner and as president of Southwest Georgia Technical College in Thomasville.

Pending negotiation of a contract and passing a background check, Hill will replace Bradley Byrne, who resigned in May to run as a Republican candidate for governor.

Byrne took over in 2007 after state and federal investigators launched a widespread probe of corruption and nepotism under ousted Chancellor Roy Johnson. The former chancellor pleaded guilty last year to 15 federal charges, including money laundry and bribery involving contractors.

Johnson had the power to hire employees and sign contracts without the board's approval.

In an interview with the board, Hill said, “I would not like to see the chancellor enter into contracts without board approval.”

Two board members asked Hill why she would want to come to Alabama considering what the system's gone through in recent years.

She said she had prepared herself throughout her career to become a chancellor.

“To be in education, it would be the pinnacle of a career,” she said.

Plus, she said, “I'm a Southern girl. I don't want to go to Michigan and I don't want to go to Arizona.”

Riley said work force development, including preparing technical workers for new Alabama industries, is a critical part of Alabama's two-year college system, and Hill has a record of success in that field in Georgia.

“There will be no learning curve,'' the governor said.

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