BEND, OR -- Two current Central Oregon Community College board members chose not to run again, opening the door for six candidates vying for their seats. At a recent candidate forum hosted by City Club and the League of Women Voters they all discussed expansion of the Madras campus, tuition affordability, staff pay and other issues.
Two candidates are running to replace Jim Clinton in Zone Five. Diane Berry is a mom, former college instructor, lawyer and mental health professional. "This breadth of experience enables me to see issues presented through a variety of lenses and to see solutions others may miss," she said, "It uniquely qualifies me for this position."
Erin Merz works for Cascades Academy and is a former senior administrator at Portland State University. "I bring perspective from both inside and outside of the classroom, from academic affairs to student affairs," she said, "I’ve worked very closely with constituents at every level of an educational institution."
In Zone Six, four candidates are running to replace Bruce Abernethy. Kevin Knight is a semi-retired corporate executive who serves on Bend’s Budget committee and has a history of other public service, "So, I’d like to take the skills and the experiences that I’ve gained over decades of experience and add those to those currently on the board and really help ensure the future success of COCC."
Former Bend Police Chief Jim Porter told the forum he has a history of managing tax dollars and serving on other boards, and is the only candidate who has both attended and taught at COCC. "So I have an understanding of what it takes to move things forward in Central Oregon," he said, "It’s the footprint that I want to move forward, of COCC being a leader in the area."
Maureen Radon is the General Manager of the Broken Top Community Association, and said, "My work in homeowners association management for 20 years means I’ve worked with and guided boards through many difficult projects, so I’m very familiar with board governments, policies."
The fourth candidate, David Price, is retired military, according to his filing documents. He was unable to attend this week's forum. Michael Sipe dropped out of the race earlier this week.
COCC’s board is divided by geographic zones. Both open seats represent Bend.
On tuition affordability, the Zone Five candidates focused on COCC’s real estate development projects. Merz said, "To be a consistent and reliable stream of revenue for the college is a really great and creative solution, and more of that is going to be required." Berry added, "It’s not a fix-all, by any means. But it’s going to increase the revenue the college has, as well as maintaining some financial stability, providing a means of additional support for students and help alleviate the housing crisis in Bend."
Zone Six candidates want state lawmakers to provide more funding, "I think if Community College isn’t currently top of mind with legislators for funding, it definitely should be," said Radon. The others also say lobbying in Salem is important, but Porter added, "Getting the private industry locally, and its partners, to support fiscally training and training programs to help their open line positions in the private sector." And Knight wants to see short-term scholarships, "Rather than broad scholarships, we can look at micro-scholarships, where we provide money for students and once they complete a certain number of courses or credit hours, they get the next tranche."
Click HERE to view the entire forum.