Campos named college finalist

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By David Giuliani

In a widely expected move, the Luna Community College Board of Trustees on Tuesday selected Las Vegas City Schools Superintendent Pete Campos as the fifth finalist in the search for a new president.

Campos, who is also a state senator representing Las Vegas, is competing against four candidates who all have had experience in administrative capacities at colleges. Campos’ experience has been as an administrator in public school systems.

During a meeting around the same time, City Schools board member Ramon “Swoops” Montao told his colleagues that he supported Campos in whatever move he may take, praising his service as superintendent. But he said the board needed to start preparing for a possible search for superintendent.

When the issue of the fifth finalist came up during the Luna meeting, Trustee Kenneth Flores — who represents the Santa Rosa area, where Campos comes from — immediately motioned for adding Campos as a candidate. Trustee Tony Valdez of Las Vegas immediately seconded that motion.

Then Don Shaw, who represents Springer, asked who was next in the rankings from the search committee. “It matters to me,” he said.

Connie Reichert, a Luna employee who belonged to the committee, said Campos was next.

Trustee Abelino Montoya of Las Vegas asked if the board would get a chance to interview Campos. Others said yes.

The trustees then voted unanimously for Campos.

Earlier in the meeting, Trustee Levi Alcon questioned whether the committee could choose a president from the four finalists left, saying inaction was holding the other finalists “hostage.”

Luna’s attorney, Henry Narvaez, said state law requires five finalists but that if one drops out, as happened at Luna, the trustees could choose from the remaining number. But after some quick research, he said the trustees couldn’t act on the original finalists because a state-mandated deadline had passed. Under state law, Luna had to act on the named finalists 21 days after their selection but no later than 30 days afterward. That time had passed.

Luna has been without a president since fall 2006, when Leroy “Huero” Sanchez resigned suddenly. The board named academic dean Gilbert Dean as interim president, but he, too, left the college under mysterious circumstances after being placed on an undefined leave. In early July, the board named Sigfredo Maestas, former longtime president of Northern New Mexico Community College in Espaola and academic dean at Highlands University, as interim president.

The search committee was named in the spring, but not long after, its chairman, Jesus Lopez, who was also Luna’s attorney, resigned both positions, saying the search was a farce and that three trustees already had a candidate in mind. He wouldn’t identify the person.

In mid-September, the committee held interviews with six semifinalists and each underwent a public forum. Campos had submitted his application late in the process, so the committee didn’t have time to consider him before the interview process.

Besides Campos, the other finalists are Sharon Caballero, former Highlands University president; Hans Kuss, former president of Maysville Community College in Kentucky; Dan Chacon, vice president of student support with San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Cuesta College; and James Alarid, a professor and director of a leadership academy at Highlands.

If Campos is picked, he would be part of a tradition of politician presidents at Luna. Former state Rep. Sam Vigil served for years as president in the 1980s and 1990s, and Sanchez, a former mayor and city councilman, was in the top post from 2001 to 2005.

After the meeting, Maestas, the interim president, said it was likely that Campos would undergo a public forum like the others.

Maestas said he expected the trustees to choose the new president next month and that he would leave some time after that.