Las Vegas City Schools Superintendent Pete Campos on Thursday broke his months-long silence on his bid to become Luna Community College’s next president.
In a related development, Luna scheduled a public forum for Campos, a Democratic senator who represents Las Vegas, for 8 a.m. Tuesday in the Board of Trustees’ chambers in the Student Services Building.
The Board of Trustees is set to publicly interview Campos at 9 a.m. Thursday, although a time hasn’t been set yet.
Campos gained an important endorsement this morning from Jesus Lopez, a local attorney who is influential in political affairs.
“I respectfully and humbly urge the trustees to name the good senator president,” Lopez said in a statement. “In my opinion, he is the most qualified of the applicants. I believe he will do great things for Luna, and I endorse him enthusiastically. Any contrary opinion I harbored in the past was unfounded.”
Speculation has been rampant at Luna that Campos is likely to get the top job. He is one of five finalists.
The other public forums were held nearly four months ago, but Campos, who applied later in the process, was added to the list last month after another finalist dropped out.
The board is expected to select a new president at its monthly meeting on Jan. 15.
Campos said he has the credentials in the education field to become the next president, but he said some people are working against him.
“There are those who would not like to see me serve as president. In a very few cases, for whatever reason, these individuals would do what they deemed necessary to underhandedly scuttle my chances for consideration by the Board of Trustees as a potential president of Luna Community College,” Campos wrote in a paper called “Sequences of Thoughts and Events,” a document dated New Year’s Day and released Thursday.
Campos wrote that he had mixed feelings applying because of his 14 years with the City Schools and the impact on his family, which he noted has gone through the presidential search process twice at Highlands University.
“Because I am a public servant, I would once again have to prepare my family for what I have already experienced: magnified scrutiny and breach in my application confidentiality (divulged by an anonymous source) before ever being selected as a finalist,” Campos wrote.
The Optic reported on Campos’ submission of an application in early September; the newspaper received the information from named Luna sources.
As the superintendent of the City Schools, Campos misses a month or two each year for the Legislature.
Trustee Don Shaw said the time away would play a role in his decision.
“It has to be a consideration,” he said. “Being president is a full-time job.”
While some may argue that Campos could bring more money to Luna in his role as state senator, Shaw said it could also have a negative effect. He said Campos may have to limit what he can get for Luna so as not to appear as if he were just lobbying for the college he heads.
Shaw said it’s important that the trustees examine all five finalists’ qualifications.
“I don’t want to pay too much attention to Sen. Pete Campos. There are other very qualified candidates being considered,” Shaw said.
Trustee Tony Valdez said he believed Campos was a good candidate “for right now.” He said he would take into account Campos’ experience as a superintendent and as a senator.
He said he believed Campos would make the right decisions as president in connection with his role as a state senator. But he stressed that the board hasn’t made a selection yet.
Valdez said he wouldn’t have a problem with Campos missing time for the Legislature. After all, he said presidents have to spend much time lobbying during the legislative session.
“A president has to be there anyway,” he said.
Campos said as a state senator, he would treat all local public institutions equally when trying to secure state money. Such funding requests would be based on need, and Luna would receive no special treatment in the Legislature if he were the president, he said.
Campos said it would be a “natural transition” for him to go from superintendent to college president. He said he has a close relationship with school administrators throughout the region. That cooperation is key in improving educational opportunities so students could get jobs in the area rather than going elsewhere, he said.
Luna has a tradition of politician presidents. For years, Sam Vigil headed Luna while representing Las Vegas in the state House. From 2001 to 2006, Leroy “Huero” Sanchez, former Las Vegas mayor and Highlands University regent, served as Luna’s president.
Campos is by no means the only state lawmaker from Las Vegas to have served as a superintendent. Ray Leger was both a state senator and West Las Vegas schools superintendent years ago.
The Luna president’s position became vacant in the fall of 2006, when Sanchez retired suddenly after an hour-long closed session with the trustees. The board named academic dean Gilbert Sena as interim president, but he, too, left under mysterious circumstances during the summer after being placed on leave.
The trustees then appointed Sigfredo Maestas, former longtime president of Northern New Mexico Community College in Espaola, to serve as the new interim president.
The other four finalists for the presidency are Sharon Caballero, former Highlands University president and current director of the Las Vegas-San Miguel Economic Development Corporation; 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 is the only candidate without administrative experience in higher education.
A couple of years ago, Campos sought an attorney general’s opinion on whether he could be a community college president while serving as a state senator. The former attorney general, Patricia Madrid, said he could.
In the summer, Jesus Lopez resigned as Luna’s presidential search committee chairman and as the college’s attorney, saying the search was a “farce” and that some trustees had already made up their minds on a new president. He never said who that person was.