(WJBF) – Former Georgia Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has been named the sole finalist for the position of chancellor of the University System of Georgia (USG).

According to the press release, the Board of Regents voted today to make Perdue the sole finalist for that position.

Officials say that this decision follows a national search over the past year to lead one of the top public university systems in the nation.

“USG and its institutions have an international reputation of innovation, workforce preparation and student success and that attracted an outstanding group of candidates for the Board to explore,” said Board Chair Harold Reynolds. “Ultimately, Gov. Perdue stood out for his impressive experience and leadership in public service as well as a vast understanding not only of Georgia and its communities but of the issues facing the university system as we move forward.”

USG’s 26 public colleges and universities enroll more than 340,000 students and employ more than 48,000 faculty and staff to fulfill the system’s teaching, research and service mission across the state. 

According to the release, Perdue served as Georgia governor from 2003 to 2011 reforming the state budget, which helped create 200,000 jobs and helped stimulate the state economy, turning a budget deficit into a substantial surplus.

During his term, high school graduates in posted the highest graduate rates and SAT scores in the state history. Perdue also served in the Georgia Senate from 1991 to 2001, including as Senate President Pro Tem from 1996 to 1998.

Perdue served as Agriculture Secretary from 2017 to 2021 where he managed a workforce of 110,000 employees in the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the stated objective of being the most efficient, effective and customer friendly agency in the federal government.

Perdue led the USDA to stabilize and secure the food supply chain during the pandemic and launched the Farmers to Families Food Box program to ensure the most vulnerable Americans were fed.

“I consider being named the finalist as the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia to be a wonderful capstone to a career of public service,” Perdue says in the press release. “Education is the most important issue at the federal, state and local level and it’s why, as a legislator, I sought to be chair of the Senate Higher Education committee to work on important initiatives with Gov. Zell Miller and former USG Chancellor Steve Portch.”

“Higher education is where I wanted to have a real impact as governor, only to be stymied by twin recessions. It is what I benefited from as Agriculture Secretary, where I saw daily the benefits of university research. I want to make a difference by providing leadership and resources so that faculty can thrive in their teaching, research and service and students are inspired and supported so they graduate, find rewarding careers and become productive citizens. I am honored to be considered for such an important role.”

The press release adds that the Board began its national search in January 2021, following an announcement by Chancellor Steve Wrigley that he would retire July 1, 2021. In the interim, Executive Vice Chancellor for Operations Teresa MacCartney has served as acting chancellor.