Pete Campos, one of five finalists for Luna Community College president, said Tuesday that it was a “bittersweet experience” to apply for the job because he has enjoyed his 14 years an administrator for the Las Vegas City Schools.
Campos, who gave a 45-speech during a public forum before taking questions, told the crowd that he put his package together for the job in July but didn’t submit it until September when a search committee had already set up interviews for six semifinalists. Campos, who has been a candidate for Highlands University president twice, said he took so much time to apply because he was struggling to make a decision, adding he wasn’t sure he wanted to put his family through another search process.
“It has been a bittersweet experience going this far,” he said.
But Campos said he wants to stay in northeastern New Mexico and that he intends to do what he can to increase the number of job opportunities.
Campos, the only finalist without higher education administrative experience, said becoming Luna’s president would be a logical next step for his career. He said colleges and public schools face similar issues.
“Education is education,” he said.
Campos, a state senator, only referred once in his speech to his role in Santa Fe, where he must attend legislative session for one to two months every year. He said that just because he is away from Las Vegas doesn’t mean he’s ignoring his full-time job.
“My work goes with me,” he said.
As for his regular work schedule, Campos said he spends most of his day interacting with others, while he works on paperwork at night.
He referred to Luna’s turbulence — both a president and an interim president leaving under mysterious circumstances within a year’s time — only in an indirect way.
“I’m sure you’re all ready for closure,” he told the audience, noting the long search process. “This is being talked about on all four corners of the state. They’re not talking about unrest. They’re talking about what’s going on at Luna... I’ve always tried to stay positive.”
Campos is widely seen as the Board of Trustees’ likely pick for president. Indeed, two members of Luna’s Board of Trustees, Jerry Maestas and Tony Valdez, attended Campos’ event, the first time any trustees showed up at any of the finalists’ forums.
Also, Campos’ forum had more of a political presence, with two city councilman, Cruz Roybal and Macario Gonzalez, Magistrate Judge Philip Romero and City Schools board President Elaine Luna attending the event.
Campos’ bid to become Luna’s president received an important endorsement last week when Las Vegas attorney Jesus Lopez, who has much influence over local political affairs, released a statement saying Campos was the best candidate for the job.
Trustee Tony Valdez said last week that Campos’ being gone for one or two months every year shouldn’t be a problem, while Trustee Don Shaw said it’s important the board look seriously at all of the finalists.
More than two years ago, Campos asked for an attorney general’s opinion on whether a state legislator could also serve as a community college president. The attorney general gave the go-ahead.
Campos said that if he gets the Luna job, he would serve out his contract as superintendent with the City Schools, a job he’s held since 2004. He noted that he has never broken an employment contract.
That means interim President Sigfredo Maestas, who didn’t apply for the presidency, may serve through June, even though he initially expected to leave by November.
Asked about this during the forum, Maestas said the trustees would have to determine his situation.
The other finalists had their public forums nearly four months ago. Campos was added as a finalist last month after another one withdrew.
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.
Campos will be publicly interviewed by the Board of Trustees at 9 a.m. Thursday in the board’s chambers in the Student Services Building.
The board is set to make a decision at its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in its chambers.