Donald Bobbitt Names Johnny Key to University Relations Post for UA System

University of Arkansas System President Donald R. Bobbitt on Wednesday named state Sen. Johnny Key associate vice president for university relations for the UA System.

The UA said Key will assist Melissa Rust, vice president for university relations, in coordinating the government relations efforts of the UA's 18 campuses, units and divisions. He will make a salary of $130,000. 

"Key's start date in the position is being negotiated and will follow the conclusion of his service in the Arkansas State Senate," the UA said in a news release. 

Key was recently a finalist for the position of vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The job went to Randy Massanelli, the state director for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

Ben Beaumont, a UA System spokesman, said Key was fully vetted through the search process for the job at the Fayetteville campus, and Melissa Rust was a part of that search committee.

"She and Dr. Bobbitt had identified a need for some time for additional help in government relations," Beaumont said. "Having identified Sen. Key as the ideal person for this job from his candidacy for the UA position, they didn't feel it was necessary to conduct another search."

Bobbitt said Key was "an ideal choice to fill a need for additional government relations support across the system."

"We’ve had a need for some time to bring on someone to help Melissa, who essentially works for all 18 UA System entities to educate policymakers on the many issues we are facing in higher education," Bobbitt said. "Johnny Key has been fully vetted through the search process at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to hire him to join our team at the UA System.

"His service as a lawmaker has given him a unique perspective on the legislative process and I know his knowledge and skills will be an asset to our government relations efforts."

Key was elected to the state Senate in 2008, representing portions of Baxter, Boone and Marion counties.