By EDDIE CELAYA
While the U.S. presidential election has sucked up TV time, a race for Board of Governors may be most important to Pima Community College.
The five-member governing board meets monthly in public session to fulfill duties that include selecting the chancellor, determining a mission and setting goals for the college. Board members serve a six-year unpaid term.
Three board seats are up for election, but only one has a contested race. Martha Durkin, Luis Armando Gonzales and Francis P. Saitta each seek to represent District 5.
Durkin was appointed as the District 5 representative in August 2015 after the early departure of board member Marty Cortez.
She’s an attorney who previously worked as a deputy city manager, a deputy attorney for the City of Tucson and as general counsel for Tucson Unified School District.
Durkin touts her time in public service.
“My experience and education make me the most qualified candidate to represent District 5,” she said. “I represented and advised local governmental entities for nearly 30 years, and held a number of high-level administrative positions.”
Durkin also cites the current board’s relationship with Chancellor Lee Lambert.
“During this last year, the board/chancellor relationship has grown stronger and we are more effective as we get to know each other and build trust,” she said.
On her campaign website, Durkin pledges to “continue to work to address accreditation issues, student achievement and industry relations.”
LUIS A. GONZALES
Gonzales is a former Arizona state senator and former executive director of gaming for both the Pascua Yaqui and Ak-Chin Maricopa tribes. He also recently served as South Tucson’s city manager.
He touts his financial background and ability to deal with complex budget issues.
“I have hands-on experience on budgetary matters far and beyond that of any other candidate,” he said. “Unlike my opponents, I have actually balanced many budgets.”
Gonzales also drew sharp contrast to how his actions would differ from Durkin’s. “I am opposed to student tuition fee increases, unlike the current board member, Ms. Durkin,” he said.
He expressed concerns about how PCC is governed, specifically the ongoing accreditation saga.
On his campaign website, Gonzales lists a 10-point plan to help PCC escape it’s accreditation woes. It includes items such as “restoring transparency” and “accountability of administrators.”
If enacted, Gonzales believes his plan will “keep the college’s doors open for student access, affordability and success.”
FRANCIS P. SAITTA
Saitta, a former PCC adjunct instructor in math and biology, also ran for the District 5 seat in 2012. He decided to run again because he believes in the value of education.
“As an educator, I have an avid interest in the essential role of our system of public education in the long term viability of our democracy,” he said.
In addition to accreditation woes, Saitta said PCC is not inclusive enough.
“No one in Pima County should be denied access to the educational programs at PCC because of financial reasons so long as students enroll in programs commensurate with their academic preparedness,” he said.
Saitta wants the college to offer a self-paced high school diploma program. He contends the program should be part of PCC’s mission.
DISTRICT 4: MEREDIT HAY
Hay, a former University of Arizona provost and executive vice president, will win by acclamation.
Scott Stewart held the District 4 seat for 18 years, but chose not to run again. Stewart is the last board member who served during the administration of previous Chancellor Roy Flores.
Hay currently serves as a physiology professor at the UA College of Medicine and is president of a Tucson biotechnology company, ProNeurogen, Inc.
“She is extraordinarily well qualified and sees the higher education landscape in ways not too unlike mine,” Stewart said. “But I believe her experience, reputation and communication style will be able to obtain better results.”
Hay said her experience “allows me a unique perspective and understanding.”
She said she would spend her first year getting up to speed.
“I look forward to meeting and working with the other PCC board members in January and working with Dr. Lambert to advance and strengthen PCC,” she said.
DISTRICT 2: DEMION CLINCO
Clinco, who was appointed to the board in December 2015 after David Longoria resigned, will also win by acclamation.
He is a former Arizona state representative and currently serves as the executive director of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation and vice president of Catalina In-Home Services, Inc.
Clinco did not respond by press time to numerous attempts for comment.
His campaign website says he plans to focus on four themes: accountability, accessibility, affordability and vision.