MAYHEW — Deborah Gilbert will become the interim leader of Mississippi Community College Board, after an impasse among board members stymied their ability to choose a permanent executive director.
The board announced that it voted unanimously Friday at a meeting at East Mississippi Community College in Mayhew to name Gilbert. Now deputy executive director for finance and administration, Gilbert, an accountant who has worked for the board since 1988, will become interim executive director on July 1. She succeeds Eric Clark, who is retiring after holding the post for seven years.
The board coordinates the state’s 15 independently governed community and junior colleges.
The board also voted Friday to hire Malcolm Portera, former president of Mississippi State University and former chancellor of the University of Alabama system, to lead a search for a permanent leader.
Board chairman Bruce Martin of Meridian had said he would propose hiring Portera. A board news release Friday said there’s no schedule for the search.
The 10-member board was deadlocked for months in a dispute over whether it would hire Debra West as its new executive director or restart the search. That standoff ended only when West withdrew her nomination in April.
Gov. Phil Bryant urged the board to drop requirements for an academic doctorate or experience in educational administration and emphasize job training. That move drew concern from the regional accrediting agency for colleges and universities, but Bryant denied doing anything improper. Martin has said Bryant asked that the board include Tray Hairston, a lawyer who was a policy adviser to Bryant in 2012 and 2013, among candidates it considered.
In December, a group sought to hire West but was defeated on a 5-5 vote. A group that voted against West, including Martin, sought to reopen the search after reviewing the qualifications. That effort failed on the same 5-5 deadlock, with West’s supporters opposing it.
In January, the Martin group sought to reopen the search without changing the credentials, but West’s supporters blocked that on a 5-5 vote. Martin reiterated last month that he no longer favors changing the job requirements.
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