Palomar College community quizzes presidential candidates

SAN MARCOS — The two finalists for Palomar College’s president/ superintendent position were under the spotlight on Nov. 6, answering a series of questions from faculty, students administrators and other stakeholders at a pair of public forums.

About 65 people attended each of the forums, which were aimed at giving the public an opportunity to learn more about Lynn Neault and Gregory Anderson, who emerged as finalists of a nearly yearlong job search that attracted nearly 100 candidates across the country.

Neault, a vice chancellor with the San Diego Community College District, touted her experience, local and statewide educational connections and her personal life experience as a single mother — which she says mirrors the experience of many within Palomar’s student body — while Anderson, the vice president of instruction at Canada College in Redwood City, highlighted his diverse background as both a teacher and administrator, his world travels and his commitment to diversity.

Lynn Neault

Lynn Neault

Each took the stage for an hour and fielded questions submitted by audience members and read by Mike Popielski, the school’s interim vice president of human resource services. Each candidate was also able to give a brief opening and closing statement.

More than 40 questions were submitted, Popielski said. The candidates were each able to answer about 15 of them.

Neault, who served briefly as interim president of San Diego City College, was able to highlight her grasp on the local issues in several of her answers. For example, both candidates were asked how they would boost enrollment in the southern edge of Palomar’s district. While Anderson cited cyclical factors such as the economy and statewide declines in enrollment, Neault took aim at nearby Miramar College, which has been making inroads with students in Palomar’s southern edge.

Neault said part of the solution was making Palomar’s southern Mt. Carmel Educational Center a more palatable draw to students in the area.

“For the life of me I can’t see why your enrollment is down,” Neault said.

In regards to her commitment to diversity, which was asked in several questions to both candidates, Neault cited her experience as interim president, during which time she hired 32 faculty members that she said represented the students in various ways.

“If you are in this business, you need to embrace diversity,” she said. “When I was at City, we had the opportunity to shape the future of the college. As president, diversity needs to be the culture at the college.”

Anderson, who put his energy on display throughout the forum, repeatedly cited his openness and accessibility as strengths, going as far as to recite his cell phone number and urging the audience to call him personally if their questions weren’t answered.

Gregory Anderson

Gregory Anderson

He said that he believed the college is at a major crossroads, entering the twilight of its historic building campaign under Proposition M building campaign, which began in 2006 when voters approved the nearly $700 million construction bond.

“I strongly believe that Palomar College should be the destination college for San Diego County, and it’s not quite there yet,” Anderson said. “I am convinced with work..we will get there.”

Part of that, he said, would be through improved marketing of the college, which he said he was able to do directly when supervising his current college’s public information officer.

“We got to be on (social media) all of the time,” Anderson said. “I will be available and ready to engage the community.”

People in attendance said they were impressed with both candidates, which they said should be able to usher Palomar College into the next stage of its history.

“They both have very different skill sets; one has that faculty experience versus someone who has more of an administrative take on the college,” said Genevieve Mason, a third-year student and student ambassador. “The trustees have a difficult choice.”

The college board is slated to deliberate and possibly decide on a new president Nov. 17.

The public can view each of the forums at the college’s website: Palomar.edu.

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