The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Elwell to step down from ENMU post


March 15, 2020

RUIDOSO — The next year at Eastern New Mexico University will be Jeff Elwell’s last.

Elwell, the president of the Portales campus and chancellor for the university’s three-campus system, withdrew his request for a contract extension during Friday’s Board of Regents meeting at the ENMU-Ruidoso campus. Elwell plans to serve in his current roles no later than June 30, 2021.

Elwell, who started as ENMU’s 11th president in July 2017, said he was unsure if he would simply retire, find a teaching position, be an administrator somewhere else or work outside of higher education.

“I’ve enjoyed a lot of what Edwina and I have been doing here,” Elwell said Saturday, “and I think I’ve accomplished a decent amount. I think it’s time.”

In a letter sent to the campus, Elwell said he wanted to announce now to give the regents 14 months to determine a succession plan.

“In a way, completing my service after four years is poetic,” Elwell said in the letter. “I came in as a freshman with the class of 2021 and we are both finishing our junior years with the goal of graduating after four years.”

The regents also changed course on their presidential residence plans and made a ruling on the travel policy for Elwell and his spouse, Edwina Gower.

Elwell said some of the planned agenda items were wiped off of the menu, as many of the essential staff to cover them had more important duties at the Portales campus relating to the upcoming closures for the coronavirus pandemic.

• Regents voted to renovate the current university house, also known as the presidential residence, with $650,000 in state capital outlay dollars.

“I think the route we’re going,” Board President Terry Othick said, “we’re not going to be spending $900,000.”

The $900,000 refers to a state award, plus a $250,000 check previously offered by the ENMU Foundation to cover runover expenses specifically for public areas of the house.

The board first received the $650,000 from the state in 2019, but Othick said it was specifically earmarked for new construction and not a remodeling. Given that requirement, Othick said the house committee ran into numerous snags. The building price, which includes a requirement to pay prevailing state wages, kept creeping up. Nobody came forward with a use for the existing house, and the university neither had money budgeted for a demolition nor the desire to have an unused house right next to a new house.

Regents decided to shut down the project and ask the state to reauthorize the money with options for either a new build, a renovation or a purchase of an existing property. The regents returned the check to the foundation at that time, and Othick doesn’t anticipate the remodel will go outside of the $650,000 state award.

So far, about $17,000 has been spent, mostly on design work.

• Regents voted 3-1 on how the university travel policy should be considered in respect to Gower, who is not a university employee but frequently acts on behalf of the university on trips with her husband.

Regent Lance Pyle said the board had received numerous complaints, and there was no reason Elwell or any president or chancellor should be treated differently from any other government employee.

“Travel overages should not be allowed, state statute should be complied with,” Pyle said, “and this will prevent any perception of misuse of public funds, even if the Foundation or someone reimburses or pays for the expenses.”

Pyle moved:

• All chancellor travel reimbursement must comply with state statutes, with travel expenses supported by itemized receipts with hotels at the best available government rate and meal reimbursements the same as other ENMU employees. If no itemized receipts are provided, per diem will be paid in accordance with university policy.

• Out-of-state overnight travel by the chancellor must be approved by the president of the board or the board of regents in a public meeting with a justification on the university need and purpose.

• Spouse reimbursements for travel or meals must be submitted in advance to the board of regents in a public meeting with justification on the university benefit.

• Entertainment expense reimbursement requests must include detailed receipts with reasons for the expenditure and who attended. Expenses will be reimbursed pursuant to state statute limits unless otherwise approved by the board.

Dan Patterson voted against the motion. Regent Ed Tatum was not present.

• The next meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. April 10 at the Portales campus.


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