Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Len Blanton of Tupelo, chief financial officer for Nesco Electrical Distributors, must have seemed like a good fit when former Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him to the state College Savings Plan of Mississippi Board of Directors.
After all, the Tupelo resident had an accounting background and had been interested in education opportunities while working through various civic organizations and even working as an ACT tutor.
Blanton said he assumed that is why Barbour appointed him to the state board that oversees two programs designed to help parents prepare financially for their children’s higher education.
And that is the reason Gov. Phil Bryant re-nominated Blanton, 43, to the College Savings Board this year. Blanton was one of eight Northeast Mississippians confirmed by the state Senate during the recently completed session to the various boards and commissions that oversee various state agencies and programs.
Most all of the people confirmed for the 2014 session were nominated by the governor, like Blanton, though not all. For instance, Karen Sue Elam of Oxford was confirmed by the Senate to a post on the newly created Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, after being nominated by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
Elam, a consultant on regulatory matters for food associations, is set to serve until June 30, 2016, on the Board that will decide whether to grant charter school applications.
Blanton’s second term on the College Savings Plan Board is scheduled to run until June 30, 2019.
“Education is important for me as it needs to be for everybody,” said Blanton, when asked why he serves on the board. “I have a keen interest in making sure educational opportunities are available for everyone.”
Blanton, as a member of the College Savings Board, has faced some difficult decisions in recent years. In 2012, the Board opted to halt new enrollments in the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program because of a funding shortfall.
MPACT, created in 1997 by the Legislature, allows parents and grandparents to pay current tuition levels for their children’s and grandchildren’s higher education in later years.
The board was concerned that if funds were not available to pay the tuition costs for the enrollees that it would be the responsibility of Mississisppi’s taxpayers to make up the difference.
But earlier this year, with the blessing of the legislative leadership and Bryant, the Board voted to reopen the program.
Blanton said he supported the decision. He said it was the right thing to do to ensure more educational opportunities for Mississippians and because the costs to the state could have been higher if new enrollees, and thus new money, were not coming into the program.
The board will reopen the program after changes are made that most likely will increase the cost of enrollment.
Under state law, most of the boards pay members $40 per day when they meet and the pay is limited to a certain number of days per year. They also receive mileage for their trips to Jackson for the meeting.
Other Northeast Mississippians confirmed by the Senate to various state posts during the 2014 session are:
• Ken Lippincott of Tupelo, nominated by the governor to a post on the Board of Medical Licensure for a term ending June 30, 2020.
• Mariel Wayne Mitchell of Belmont, nominated by the governor to the Board of Funeral Services for a term ending June 30, 2017.
• Melissa Ratliff Knight of Tupelo, nominated by the governor to the Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists for a term ending June 30, 2018.
• Ashli Elizabeth Brown Johnson of Starkville, nominated by Mississippi State University to serve as state chemist.
• Rodney Andrew Pearson of Starkville, nominated by the governor to the Information Technology Services Authority for a term ending June 30, 2019.
• Jody Bryan of Starkville, nominated by the governor to the Veterans Home Purchase Board for a term ending June 30, 2018.