Community questions candidates
Four prospective college presidents make their pitch
Craig residents asked Colorado Northwestern Community College presidential candidates what they would do about declining enrollment and diminishing morale, but foremost among questions was: “Where will you live?”
It was a question none of the candidates was ready to answer; all said they needed more time to explore their options.
The four finalists for the community college’s top spot were in Craig on Tuesday to meet residents and tour the campus.
They were in Rangely on Monday doing the same thing.
For the first time, the college’s president will have the choice of living in Craig or Rangely.
A search committee narrowed a pool of 15 applicants to four: Robert Behunin, associate executive director of Utah State University-Uintah Basin in Vernal; John Boyd, interim provost at the Grand Strand Campus at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Weldon Sleight, associate vice president for University Extension and associate dean for continuing education at Utah State University in Logan, Utah; and C.J. Law, dean of instructional services at Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont.
More than 30 residents, college students and staff members attended Tuesday’s four-hour forum. They filled out questionnaires with their opinions of each candidate, which will be used by the search committee when it again narrows the selection.
“I’m looking for someone to support Craig,” said Jacque Forquer, a Colorado Northwestern Community Col–lege cosmetology school instructor.
Each of the candidates has experience living in rural communities and working with community colleges.
That will make the choice difficult, Forquer said.
After spending an hour with each of the candidates, she left with no clear favorite.
“I’m very impressed with all the candidates,” she said.
Forquer said she was looking for a person who will help grow the Craig campus, instead of focusing all his attention on the Rangely campus.
“We have to have this college,” she said.
She thought each of the four candidates could fit the bill.
“There are lots of unique opportunities here,” Law said. “This college has a lot going for it.”
The college has been without a president for nearly two years. The state community college system, of which Colorado Northwestern is a member, appointed Bob Rizzuto in the interim to tighten the school’s budget in response to cuts in state funding.
That he’s done. At the Craig campus those cuts meant the loss of 75 percent of the college’s adjunct staff, elimination of some programs and classes and consolidations in full-time staff positions.
“We’re bleeding profusely here,” one audience member said. “Until we can get to the point where we can grow, how can you fix us?”
Law said he would be an advocate and cheerleader for the Craig campus.
“You can’t come back from where this college is overnight,” he said. “You need some optimistic leaders.”
Behunin said it’s critical that the college’s president lobby for the college at the state level to get funding to enlarge Craig’s campus. Boyd said he thought the changes would come when the college’s financial picture improved. He said he’d spend at least half his time working to get funding from individuals, corporations and grants.
“You’ve got to bring people in, and if you bring people in, you’ve got to house them,” he said.
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