Chancellor position draws out finalists

District hosts town hall feedback forum

Contra Costa Community College District chancellor finalist, Lake Tahoe Community College Superintendent/President Kindred Murillo speaks to the crowd in Fireside Hall on Monday.

By Reggie Santini, Spotlight Editor

The three finalists for the Contra Costa Community College District chancellor position have been selected, and all participated in an open forum on campus Monday.

Following the news of district Chancellor Helen Benjamin’s retirement, which begins in January, applications for her position were opened in August.

The district Governing Board trustees announced the names of the three candidates last week. They are Lake Tahoe Community College Superintendent and President Kindred Murillo, University of Minnesota Chancellor Fred Wood and CCCCD Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Huff.

“The district board will announce the next chancellor before the end of the year, which will be Benjamin’s last day as chancellor,” district Communications and Relations Director Tim Leong said.

The Governing Board must reach a consensus vote among themselves to decide who will be the next chancellor, but following the death of John T. Nejedly in October, the board is short a trustee.

“We could end up with a 2 to 2 vote and have to start all over again,” Leong said.

Part of the process is looking at the future and trying to see what is best for the district a couple of years down the line, Leong said.

Wood was the first speaker at the forum held in Contra Costa College’s Fireside Hall. He opened his speech by telling attendees about his history.

“I was a low-income student at Diablo Valley College,” Wood said.

Wood said once he is chancellor he plans to visit the campus as often as he can to learn from its staff and students what their vision is for the college.

“We need to think about our students’ success and help get them to where they want to go,” Wood said.

Administrative Assistant Michael Peterson asked Wood about his experience dealing with budget cuts.

Wood said his experience serving as a vice chancellor during the economic crisis in the U.S. gave him a great deal of experience making tough decisions dealing with budgets.

“I was criticized during my time for not letting any of the staff go, but instead retrained staff members to fill the roles of those who retired or quit,” Wood said.

Wood ended his speech by thanking everyone who attended the forum.

“Remember that this position is about you, the students and staff — not me,” Wood said in his closing remarks.

Huff was the second candidate to participate.

“I grew up in Indiana, and was the first to attend college and get a degree in my family,” Huff said.

He talked about his experience as a young father attending college and working part time.

“It was my professor who helped me get through school and onto the path to success,” Huff said.

Huff talked about his experience in the district’s financial department and his goal to maintain CCC’s funding.

“CCC is critical to this community and we are committed to it,” Huff said.

HSI Stem Coordinator Mayra Padilla asked Huff what his views were on equity versus equality.

“As a manager, I practice equity over equality. If I was treated in college with equality I would not be here,” Huff said.

As Huff reached the end of his speech, he referenced Benjamin’s legacy.

“People respect, honor and fear Helen Benjamin, and I want to continue that legacy,” Huff said.

Murillo was the final speaker for the open forum.

She opened her speech honoring Nejedly’s memory and speaking briefly about the time she spent with him and offering her condolences.

Murillo spoke about her time as a teacher at CCC and how much she loved the diversity of the college.

“I was a community college student. I know the struggles of juggling school, jobs and, for some of us, our children,” Murillo said.

Murillo was asked about her plan to raise enrollment.

“I have experience rebuilding enrollment, but I personally don’t do it. I help create the environment we need so together with our staff we can bring in more diverse students, Murillo said.

In her closing comments Murillo spoke of her desire to create innovative grants, and how she wants to work alongside faculty and not be seen as someone who is above them.

Following each candidate’s speech, every attending member was given an anonymous comment card on which to write his or her opinion of the finalist.