updated 6/1/2004 6:14:23 PM ET 2004-06-01T22:14:23

Women and minority groups say they are hopeful Gov. Phil Bredesen will diversify state leadership positions as he makes decisions on more than 200 appointments.

The governor is expected to pick people to oversee everything from stinkbugs in soybean crops to divvying up millions in federal dollars for low-income housing.

There are several hundred statewide boards and commissions whose members set state policies and professional standards, and manage budgets that range up to more than $10 million.

About 38 percent of the roughly 2,500 board and commission members who reported their gender are women, according to the secretary of state. Most, about 86 percent, of those who reported their race are white, 13 percent African-American and less than 1 percent are Hispanic, Asian or Native American.

Minorities said more diversity is needed.

"When you don't have people at the table, then some issues don't get heard," said Cynthia Bennett, state president of the National Organization for Women.

Others say the governor should simply focus on appointing the most qualified candidates for the jobs.

"There's no guarantee that just because you are a particular color or come from a gender group that you are going to represent any other view than your own," said Carol Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University. "Sometimes people say they want proportional representation, but we're not a country that has agreed on proportional representation."

One of Gov. Phil Bredesen's priorities is to ensure that the boards he fills "adequately represent and reflect the great diversity of the state of Tennessee," according to a spokeswoman.

Bredesen has made roughly 200 appointments so far. Of those reporting race and gender, 77 percent are white, 22 percent are African-American, and less than 1 percent Hispanic. A third were women.

Bredesen's latest round of appointments are expected next week.

"What I'd like to see different is them going beyond the networks that they're in," said Mario Ramos, a Nashville attorney and Hispanic leader.

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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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