As University of Wyoming Vice President for Administration Bill Mai plans to retire, he prepares to leave behind a division that has undergone a comprehensive reorganization since he joined the university in 2013.
With a 30-year career between various state government jobs and his role at UW, Mai said he is eligible for retirement under the Wyoming Retirement System and wants to make use of it while his daughter is still young enough to want him around.
“The truth of the matter is it’s really, really hard to have a balance in life,” he said. “My kid — she’s just turned seven and I just haven’t had enough time to spend with her … Kid’s like 4 feet tall and when I took this job, she was like 2 feet tall. Time goes fast.”
Mai took on his role at the university during the short-lived and contentious presidency of Robert Sternberg. Mai will leave following the successful completion of a roughly $42 million budget cut, handed down by the State Legislature, which resulted in a massive reorganization within his division.
“We’ll miss (him),” UW President Laurie Nichols said. “He’s been a terrific vice president and brought a lot of stability to the university at a time when we needed it.”
Mai helped reconfigure the Physical Plant into UW Operations — a subdivision of administration providing repair, maintenance and renovation services across campus.
“Not judging how things were done in the past, but I would characterize it as kind of a lack of communication between what was the Facilities Planning Office — and those guys were the ones that did the direct, new large construction planning — and what was then called Physical Plant, which is everything else on campus,” he said. We organized all of that — Facilities Planning and Physical Plant — into (UW) Operations to improve those communications.”
Mai said this reorganization ensured that buildings designed and constructed at UW fit within the university’s ability to maintain and service them. He added, however, time would tell how effective the changes were.
“Big projects, I think everywhere, are really headaches for the contractors and for the entity having the projects built,” Mai said. “It happens at the state level, the federal level, the local level and at the university.”
He said he is most proud of helping to implement WyoCloud, an ongoing — though near complete — effort to streamline the way UW manages its finances and human resources. WyoCloud aims to bring clarity and consistency to the institution, Mai said.
“It’s such a huge place — a lot of money flowing through it, lots of different kinds of activities here,” he said. “It’s almost like a small city when you think about it.”
The biggest task facing the next vice president, Mai said, is the remaining implementation of WyoCloud.
“(UW) is this really broad kind of operation and yet we had, historically, pretty antiquated management information systems,” he said. “We had folks doing a pretty valiant job of trying to patch all of it together and make sense of it, but the hope is that this new system will unify things and make it a lot easier to know what’s going on and therefore help plot the direction of the future.”
Mai said his successor would hopefully inherit a more “settled place” from which to start. He said he thought about staying longer, to see through the current projects, but did not want to get stuck repeatedly staying on for “one more year” and miss out on the chance to spend time with his family.
Mai said that “one more year” feeling never truly goes away.
“There’s always a bunch more that can be done, but I do have that feeling right now, like, ‘Maybe one or two more years would be good to get a little more of it settled,’” he said. “But at the same time, it will be nice to be able to be home in time for supper with my kid and wife.”
A committee chaired by Vice President for Information Technology Robert Aylward plans to seek help from an external consultant as the committee searches for Mai’s replacement. Mai is retiring at the end of fiscal year 2018, which ends with June.
“I don’t know if we’ll have somebody here exactly by July 1, but certainly by the time school starts in the fall, we’d like to have our new vice president for administration here and ready to go,” Nichols said.
The Division of Administration manages an operational budget of $101.4 million and a staff or more than 400 and oversees 149 campus facilities, according to a UW news release.