Different backgrounds, but on the same page - Albuquerque Journal

Different backgrounds, but on the same page

Voters will have a clear choice in the Feb. 3 election for the open seat on the Santa Fe Community College Governing Board. Do they want Mr. Inside or Mr. Outside?

Xubi Wilson has been immersed at SFCC for more than 20 years – ever since he started taking classes there in 1994. Now, he describes himself as “staffulty,” a staff member with teaching responsibilities. While serving as renewable energy programs coordinator at the community college, he’s teaching classes totalling 17 credit hours this semester.

WILSON: Associated with SFCC for 20+ years
WILSON: Associated with SFCC for 20+ years

In addition, he’s served administration on numerous committees and recently stepped down as chairman of the staff senate in order to run for the seat on the governing board being vacated by Chris Abeyta, who decided not to run for another six-year term.

“Over the years, I’ve developed an understanding of the college’s needs and challenges,” Wilson said. “I think Jack is a great public servant, but my skills and knowledge make me a better candidate at this time.”

“Jack” is Jack Sullivan, whose connection to the college has been limited to taking the occasional class. An engineer by trade, he’s utilized the institution by taking computer drafting and is now taking a strength training class with his wife.

SULLIVAN: Detachment is a healthy thing
SULLIVAN: Detachment is a healthy thing

Sullivan, a former member of the Santa Fe County Commission, thinks his detachment from the community college is a healthy thing and the way it ought to be.

“Much like a board of directors at a bank, they each bring their experiences and perspective to the board,” he said. “I think it’s important to have someone independent on the board. I think it’s important to have someone who is not at all connected.”

While nothing prevents an employee from running for the governing board at the community college, Sullivan points out that a city employee isn’t eligible to be a city councilor and a school district employee can’t serve on the school board.

“There’s a reason for that,” he said. “It’s to keep people from having a conflict of interest or carrying through with a personal agenda.”

“I’m an adult; I’m not a child and I’m not corrupt,” is Wilson’s response. “I would know when to recuse myself.”

That issue aside, the two candidates are on the same page on a lot of things. Both talked about the problems SFCC has encountered over the past two years and believe they can be overcome.

After hiring Ana “Cha” Guzman as college president in the summer of 2012, the college wound up firing her a year later and then spent $500,000 to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit. Last year, newly anointed college president Randy Grissom announced SFCC was facing a $5 million deficit.

Both candidates independently said there was a need to improve morale among faculty and staff.

“The board shouldn’t be sitting in an ivory tower, but at the same time they shouldn’t be micromanaging,” Sullivan said, adding that he would make a point of circulating among employees to hear their concerns. “That helps. People see you and they know they can stop and talk to you on the street.”

Wilson said one of the problems is that faculty and staff don’t feel their input is heard.

“One of the most important things we can do is get people to be engaged,” he said. “When nobody does that, then the college is really in trouble. When they are engaged, that’s a sign of a healthy institution.”

While the community college has gone through some rough times lately, both candidates are optimistic about its future. And both believe they can help take the college to a better place.

“Engineers are problem-solvers and the community college has had its share of problems recently,” said Sullivan, 72, when asked why he was running for a seat on the governing board. “I don’t want to sit around and watch ‘Bonanza’ in my retirement, though I’m not really retired. I want to do something that is challenging and interesting.”

Wilson, 53, said he’s running because he has insight that will contribute to the board.

“The most important thing is the board needs to have good information, and I can provide that information,” he said. “Throw me in the mix, and that’s a good cross-section of the community to make good decisions.”

Interestingly, Wilson and Mitchell’s names have appeared together on a ballot before. In 2000, they were in a three-way race for a seat on the County Commission. Running as a progressive Democrat, Sullivan garnered 49 percent of the vote and went on to serve two four-year terms on the commission. Wilson got 23 percent of the vote as a Green Party candidate.

Sullivan, who earned former Mayor David Coss’s endorsement this week, also made a run at the state Senate seat in District 39 in 2012, losing in the primary to Phil Griego.

Aside from the race between Sullivan and Wilson for the Position 4 seat, Linda Siegle and Pablo Sedillo are running unopposed for positions 1 and 2, respectively.

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