BEND, OR -- The next President of Central Oregon Community College is preparing for her 2,400-mile journey west. COCC’s Board unanimously approved the hiring of Dr. Laurie Chesley, earlier this week. She's spent most of her career in Michigan and tells KBND News she’s ready for the challenges that lie ahead, "I think it’s very important for me, as a person who hasn’t grown up in Bend, to understand the community as well as I can, get to know the priorities and concerns of the community. My first weeks and months are going to be really focused on relationship building." She adds, "My top priority will be to meet as many members of the college community and the local community as possible."
She begins her transition amid controversy over COCC’s public safety policies, as a bill moves through Salem regulating college security forces. Dr. Chesley says she’s been briefed on Kaylee’s Law, "But I have not had an opportunity to look at that and study it in-depth and have conversations about it." She tells KBND News, "Any campus president has got to be concerned about the safety of students; that will be a top priority for me, to ensure the safety of our campus of and the community, and to continue the work that I know COCC has done." The state bill is named for Kaylee Sawyer, killed in 2016 by a COCC campus security guard. It would set regulations to distinguish campus officers from sworn law enforcement. Dr. Chesley currently works at Grand Rapids Community College; she says Michigan law allows them to have their own police force. Oregon law does not.
Dr. Chesley takes over for retiring President Dr. Shirley Metcalf July first.