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The guy who follows a legend

Jul 25, 2014 - By Chris Peck

Cristobal Valdez has that task; give him a chance

I haven't met new Central Wyoming College president Cristobal Valdez yet, but I sympathize with his challenge.

He's been on the job all of a week now.

No doubt various CWC staff and Fremont County citizenry already are testing him, prodding his ideas, trying to get a feel for where the new college president is coming from.

That's challenge enough in a new job. I've experienced myself, more than once.

But the new CWC top dog also is following in the footsteps of an icon.

He steps in for Jo Anne McFarland, who had been at the helm of CWC since 1989.

She was the first female college president in Wyoming history.

She had risen to the top of her profession, nationally recognized for her work with American Association of Community Colleges.

Yes, she joked about her staff "dancing in the streets'' at the news of her retirement, but the truth is far different.

She was an institution. An inspiring elder. As familiar a face in Fremont County public life as there ever was.

The average tenure for a college president these days is seven years. She lasted 25.

And now, Cristobal Valdez.

The new guy.

Not from Wyoming.

It's not an easy role.

The path of being the new guy who follows a legend is riddled with ruin.

What bits of advice could serve incoming President Valdez as he begins?

Let's start with these three:

1. Listen and learn about Fremont County. The last thing people ever want to hear from new boss is the phrase that begins, "In my old job we.....'' This isn't the old job. This is a new job. Taking time to learn about the new people and the new place it will be huge advantage.

2. Don't change too much in your first 90 days. Of course, make sure you are going to the right meetings and getting up to speed on projects. Beyond that, be ambitious but restrained -- not that guy who flames out early. Note to self: Study history of now-departed University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg, who lasted only 137 days on the job in 2013.

3. Be an optimist about CWC. Sure, raising money, coping with faculty and students, dealing with legislators can be a pain. But CWC occupies a shining, hopeful spot in the place. Good things happen on that hill. More good things are ahead with a new president. Paint that picture.

Will following this free advice ensure success for the new CWC president?

No, nothing can guarantee that.

Sometimes events conspire, people conspire, or fate conspires to make best intentions fizzle like a Fourth of July sparkler.

With the departure of a long-standing, well-respected Jo Anne McFarland, it's important for those who care about CWC to give the new president a chance.

A chance to be himself.

A chance to do things differently.

Even a chance to mess up, change course, and try again.

This is a big move for President Valdez. And a big change for CWC.

It can be good, if everybody tries to make it that way.

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