By Joshua Scheer, reporter, county1o.com
(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees has selected Nicole Schoening to fill the board’s vacancy.
The appointment came shortly after 10 p.m. during the board’s Wednesday night regular meeting.
Multiple trustees emphasized the difficulty in choosing between the seven candidates. “This was a tough decision,” Chairman Charlie Krebs said, adding that multiple times during the executive session it said the board would be happy with anyone. The motion to appoint Schoening came from Trustee Heather Christensen and was seconded by Trustee Scott Phister.
The board made the appointment after interviewing the candidates and a 70 minute executive session.
Schoening’s appointment will run until the 2014 election.
The vacancy was formed in January when Trustee Judy Pedersen abbruptly resigned from the position. It came after a couple of months discussion surrounding controversial election-night comments to local media.
The seat encompasses the Riverton and Shoshoni Subdistrict.
The other candidates were Gloria Philp, Tim Payne, Phil Christopherson, Robert Heuermann, Jack Hildner, and John W. Mercer Jr. Krebs encouraged the other candidates to stay involved. “We would hope you would remain supportive of the college, all of you,” he said. “I know you will, just from hearing your passion.” Phister thanked everyone for their interest in the position. Trustee Roger Gose said he would be considering some of the other candidates for other boards and initiatives that he is involved with. “Your qualifications are exceptional,” he said.
The candidates were asked a serious of eight prepared questions ranging from their views on the college’s mission and strategic priorities to the code of conduct to the board’s involvement on varying levels of operations. The candidates were supplied the questions ahead of time, and some read statements in answer to the questions. Candidates who were not yet interviewed were required to stay out of the room. The interviews lasted about an hour and a half.
Each candidate gave an opening statement before beginning answering the questions. Most used the time to detail their relevant background and interest.
Philp said she has no particular axe to grind nor wants to come in and start changing things. She said she’s served on a number of boards including the Shoshoni school board. She also has been a substitute teacher there.
Schoening thanked the board for the opportunity to apply. She ran for the position in the fall against Pedersen. Schoening is a special education case manager within Fremont County School District 25. “By nature, I enjoy people very very much.” She said her younger age would be a “tremendous asset” to the board. She said she would be a visual board member.
Payne, who has run the past two election cycles, said he is a product of a community college and believes the institution is key to enrich lives and enhance economic growth. He also spoke of the college’s cultural influence.
In his opening remarks, Christopherson also emphasized CWC’s board impact. “This is an educational Institution, but it’s so much more than that,” he said. He is the Executive Director of IDEA Inc. in Riverton.
Heuermann, a multi-decade art and music professor, outlined his experience in education and his role as a coordinator with AARP. He also mentioned his experience with administering staff.
Hildern, who said he’s been in Fremont County since 1978 and worked almost every job in the medical profession, said he’s served as an instructor and assistant professor. “Meeting the needs of all students is paramount,” he said. He’s also served on the Child Development Services Board.
Riverton Memorial Hospital board member John W. Mercer Jr. detailed for the board his military and medical background. He said his experience on the hospital board has tought him the value of this type of leadership.
Nearly all of the candidates said they were in agreement with CWC’s Mission and Vision Statements as well as its Strategic Priorities. The one thing Hildner said he would consider adding to the priorities is utilizing local expertise from outside of the college.
Quality and diversity of programs was a consistant selection as one of the college’s strengths. Heuermann singled out the nursing and equine programs. Christopherson noted the ethnic diversity of the students and the board. Schoening listed the BOCES and GED programs as key strengths.
Questions about needed improvements at CWC solicited a wide range of responses. Philp, Mercer and Payne did not point out any significant improvements needed. Schoening said the college needs to embrace changing technologies. Christopherson and Heuermann both pointed to parking problems. Hildner believed addressing outstanding student debt could be something to look at.
Funding cuts was the most common answer as to what challenges the college faces. Schoening said the answer was too easy and suggested looking at the diversity of programs. She said it would be a challenge to sustain the range of more than 50 options while maintaining quality. Philp said recruiting students and faculty is one of the biggest challenges.
Most agreed that trustees’ involvement in day-to-day operations of the colleges should be minimal or none at all. With regard to involvement in larger organizations and state politics answers varied. Mercer pointed to the board’s policy as defining trustees’ roles. Philp and Schoening deferred state politics involvement to the college’s designee. Payne said if a trustee is involved with politics on their own it’s a “slippery slope.”
All seven said the agreed to abide by the board’s policy’s, including the Code of Conduct.