State Senator Gets UA Job After Pryor Staffer Beats Him Out For Vice Chancellor

Key (left) and Massanelli

Key (left) and Massanelli

State Sen. Johnny Key on Wednesday (May 7) was named associate vice president for university relations for the University of Arkansas System, a few days after missing out on a vice chancellor job to a staffer for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

Key, R-Mountain Home, was a finalist for the job of UA vice chancellor for governmental relations at the Fayetteville campus, a position that instead went to Randy Massanelli, state director for Pryor. Massanelli will be paid $175,000 annually, while Key will be paid $130,000 a year, according university officials.

The finalists met separately with Chancellor G. David Gearhart and other vice chancellors and school officials before a decision was made to select Massanelli, according to a statement released by the university. The other finalist for the position that eventually went to Massanelli was Mac Campbell, who served as an aide to then-U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

Thirty-three people applied for the vice chancellor job, which was narrowed down by a nine-member search committee that included school officials, CEO Jerry Adams of Arkansas Research Alliance and former state Sen. Steve Higginbothom, according to the university’s statement.

Massanelli replaces Richard Hudson, who is retiring July 31, according to a university news release.

Hudson was hired at the university in 1994 and has worked under three chancellors, the news release states.

Hudson was paid $202,000 in the lobbying position, according to Mark Rushing, the university’s director of strategic communications.

Key is filling a position that has been unoccupied for a while, said Ben Beaumont, director of communications for the 18-campus UA System. Beaumont did not immediately know how long the post has been unoccupied. He said any suggestion that Key was given the UA System job as a consolation for not getting Hudson’s job is untrue.

In his job, Key will assist Melissa Rust, vice president for university relations, who served on the search committee that ultimately named Massanelli to replace Hudson.

Key will begin working for the UA System when his state Senate term expires in January, Beaumont said.

By law, Key is not allowed to register as a state lobbyist for one year after he leaves the Senate, but he can lobby in an unregistered capacity as an employee of the UA System, according to a news release from the system.

 

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