When the Luna Community College Board of Trustees appointed Pete Campos as president last year, its members told the public that it wasn’t a problem that Campos was also a state senator. Even though Campos would be gone for weeks at a time while attending sessions in Santa Fe.
Unconvinced, we had deep reservations.
Since mid-January, Campos has been largely missing in action as the college campaigns for a tax increase. Voters will decide March 3 on whether to hike their property taxes — an annual increase of $52 for a home worth $100,000.
Promoting a tax increase isn’t a responsibility to leave entirely to subordinates. To be sure, Campos’ employees have made good efforts to advertise the bond issue that would pay for improvements to Luna facilities throughout the service area.
But it’s the president who must be front and center to argue why it’s important to increase taxes — a troublesome prospect for people living on fixed incomes during a recession.
Another big Luna initiative is to expand Luna’s service area. Two of Luna’s officials, Human Resources Director Lawrence Quintana and Physical Plant Director Ron Gonzales, spoke before the Raton school board to get buy-in for this idea, but Raton members, while acknowledging the benefits of a community college, said they feared the effects of a tax increase on their constituents, according to he Raton Range.
At the same time, they must have wondered why Luna couldn’t send its president to make the pitch — or at least one of the three vice presidents. Isn’t Raton important enough to warrant a presidential visit?
Of course, they probably know that Campos is taking part in the legislative session, but they may have legitimate concerns about putting money into a college without a year-round president.
Before he left to Santa Fe, Campos named Elaine Luna, director of the Area Health Education Centers at Luna, as the acting president. Indeed, he bypassed three vice presidents to give her this nonpaying additional responsibility. And if Elaine Luna’s not around, Human Resources Director Lawrence Quintana assumes the role of acting president — with the VP trio again outside the loop.
Elaine Luna is entirely competent, and we have great faith in her as acting president. But aren’t vice presidents, by the very nature of their positions, supposed to step into this role?
When asked about his dual roles, Campos always maintains that he is a champion multi-tasker and keeps in constant touch with his employer. This is that same situation he had when he was superintendent of the Las Vegas City Schools.
If Luna’s bond issue passes, then Campos could make the argument that he doesn’t need to be around to win over the voters. Nonetheless, we think having a president on campus has inherent advantages.
But if the tax fails, Campos may have to seriously consider whether he can remain both a politician and a president. It’s either one or the other.