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CWC picks Valdez: New president takes over July 14

Apr 30, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees selected Cristobal "Cris" Valdez as its next president during a special meeting Tuesday. The vote was unanimous.

Valdez will take his post July 14, two weeks after current president Jo Anne McFarland retires. The board offered him a three-year contract including a $170,500 salary, a $6,000 annual car allowance, a $12,000 annual housing allowance, and a $20,000 moving allowance.

He accepted the offer by telephone Tuesday evening, expressing his appreciation for the board's confidence in him.

"I am extremely thrilled for this opportunity," Valdez said during the meeting. "CWC is well-positioned to do great things. ... We will do everything in our power to create a strong team that strives for continued student access but has an emphasis on student (success)."

He complimented the other finalists for the spot, including Paul Kraft, vice president of student services for Treasure Valley Community College in Oregon; and Jason Wood, CWC's executive vice president for student and academic services.

The three men were selected by a 19-member screening committee that included board members, college staff, alumni and community members. The finalists also participated in public forums and private interviews with trustees April 15-16 in Riverton.

"I fully understand how difficult a decision this was for the board," Valdez said. "I know that there were very strong candidates and finalists."

He thanked Wood in particular for welcoming Valdez to the community.

Wood staying put

Wood -- who has worked at CWC since 2010 -- was present at Tuesday's meeting and seemed emotional after the announcement was made. He offered his congratulations to Valdez, but he did not answer when asked if he was planning to leave CWC in the future.

Board chairman Charlie Krebs said Wood plans to stay at the college.

"I'm expecting it," Krebs said. "He's indicated to me he will."

During the meeting Krebs expressed "sincere admiration" for Wood and other internal candidates "who had the courage and confidence to put their names in the hopper."

"We believe that shows commitment to CWC's future and the direction we're headed," Krebs said. "It also demonstrated the high caliber of the people we currently have working at CWC and who will be helpful to our next president in making this a smooth transition."

He singled out Wood, who enjoys "strong support from the college community and serves the college admirably," according to Krebs.

"We hope he and others from the college will continue their outstanding work at CWC," Krebs said. "We hope too that the college community will respect the selection process and the final decision of the board."

Valdez stands out

Krebs said Valdez's application stood out because the candidate already was a community college president. The board also was interested in a $2 million gift that Valdez had acquired for his current institution -- reportedly the largest gift in Edison's history.

Still, Krebs said, the decision was difficult for trustees, who interviewed all three finalists April 16, then met to deliberate April 17. The trustees also spent about 50 minutes in executive session Tuesday talking about their choice.

"We all know how tough the decision was, but the decision was made for this college and the students that attend this college. That's the No. 1 thing that was on this board's mind the whole time we deliberated," Krebs said. "We hope we did the right job for all of you out there."

Geology teacher and CWC faculty president-elect Suki Smaglik said she respected the board's decision.

"All three were very good candidates, and I wouldn't have been disappointed with any of them," she said, adding, "I'm flabbergasted they got it done by May 1."

Trustees initially had planned to announce their pick May 7, but they scheduled Tuesday's special meeting last week to make the decision public as soon as possible.

"I know everyone is anxious to know the outcome of our presidential search, so I'm glad we could move that along a little quicker," Krebs said at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting.

Later, he said he is not concerned about the two-week gap between McFarland's departure and Valdez' arrival.

"Ideally she would leave June 30 and he would come in July 1," Krebs said. "But considering the strength of our college, we said, 'If you want to hold off until Aug. 1 (it would be OK).' He said, 'Let's split it in the middle.'"

Valdez's family -- wife Robin and children Antonio, Ali, Aaron, and Andi -- will join him in Fremont County on Aug. 1.

Valdez has been president at Edison since May 2011; since then, Krebs said Valdez has secured more than $1.5 million in grant funding and "dramatically increased" the school foundation's assets.

Background

Before moving to Ohio, Valdez served as provost for the Minnesota State Community and Technical College Detroit Lakes and Wadena campuses. He also was interim vice president of student affairs at MSCTC.

Valdez earned a bachelor of arts in generalist social work practice from the University of Montana, a masters of social work from Eastern Washington University and a doctor of education from Oregon State University's Community College Leadership Program.

"As a board we offer (him) our full support," Krebs said. "We hope that our faculty and staff will warmly welcome his arrival. ... We're excited about our collective future and are looking forward to Dr. Valdez moving the college forward with innovation and excellence."

McFarland initiated the round of applause that followed the presidential selection announcement. She will retire July 1 after a quarter-century on the job; she has been employed at CWC for more than 40 years.

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Central Wyoming College