Former Comptroller John Sharp, a Democrat with a long history in state politics, was named Monday the sole finalist to oversee the Texas A&M University System, among the largest in the nation with 11 universities, seven state agencies and a health science center.

“To me, this is a dream come true,” said Sharp, a Texas A&M alumnus whom colleagues describe as a die-hard Aggie. “Everything I ever will be is because of Texas A&M University. I am looking forward to returning to mecca.”

Regents, who voted on the appointment Monday, must wait 21 days to make it official.

With an annual budget of $3.3 billion, Sharp will oversee one of the biggest higher education systems in the country. But when he begins work next month, the former state representative and state senator also will step into a crucible of tension in an era of shrinking state budgets and calls to lower the cost of a college degree.

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