MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Former US representative, congressman and most recently Governor Kay Ivy’s former chief of staff Jo Bonner was recently named the new President of the University of South Alabama.
WKRG News 5’s Gabby Easterwood sat down with Bonner today, Jan. 6 to discuss the controversy surrounding his appointment and his plans for the University.
Bonner, a former politician, hadn’t considered switching to education when former president Tony Waldrop announced his plans to retire from the position.
“On the very same day he made that announcement I got three calls from alumni saying you should put your name in the hat,” said Bonner.
When Bonner decided to pursue education, not all were on board with the plan.
There was controversy surrounding his former political decision involving voting against LGBTQ issues, abortion laws and other conservative viewed decisions. Bonner said his actions as a politician do not reflect his actions as president and that inclusion will be an important issue for him.
“Give me a chance, meet me halfway and let’s work together. I want to do all that I can to build on what others have done in making this an inclusive and welcoming campus,” said Bonner. “ A campus where people that are far left, far right or don’t have a political ideology want to come learn, explore and chase their dreams.”
Bonner said his first goal as president was to fulfill a promise to get to know the students, faculty and alumni on campus.
Once Bonner has fulfilled his promise, he plans to use his background in politics to advance the needs of the school.
“I like to think that some of the relationships I’ve had in the past in Montgomery and Washington will be beneficial, you can’t do things without money,” said Bonner.
With a declining birth rate, he also plans to implement retention and recruitment to ensure that the University continues to thrive.
“We are going to be competing with a lot of other great University,” said Bonner. “I want to make certain that an education at South is affordable, accessible and when the students come here, they have the best experience they could have and that they leave with a degree.”
Bonner’s current contract has him serving five years as University President.