Too often, when local governments seek to fill board appointments it becomes a matter of beating the bushes to find a competent person to fill those positions. While some boards have a limited scope and naturally attract only a few applicants, there are many boards whose importance should warrant a deep and talented pool of applicants.
In some cases, even those boards whose work is vital attract a small number of candidates.
That is why we are pleased to note that the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors will have a deep and talented pool of applicants as it seeks to fill both of its positions on the East Mississippi Community College Board of Trustees.
Thursday, the board announced 10 applicants for these positions, offering a wide range of backgrounds, skills and experiences.
The applicants are: Andrew Appel, plant manager for Paccar; David Chism, local business owner; Richard Eubanks Jr., a heart surgeon; Keith Gaskin, Columbus mayor; William Clint Hanson, local business owner; Kirk Hardy, chief financial officer for Yokohama Tire Company; Tim Heard, networking specialist with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District; Ken Jaynes, a entrepreneur who is retired from the oil and gas industry; Charles Rigdon, co-owner of Columbus Nissan; and James Wamble III, vice president of operation for Plum Creek Environmental.
Next week, the supervisors will narrow the field of applicants to four and will choose two of those to fill the unexpired terms of Joe Max Higgins and Gregory Stewart, who resigned a week apart in late August/early September.
In typical fashion Higgins’ resignation, which he announced at Columbus Rotary Club meeting on Aug. 31, did not come quietly.
Higgins blasted the EMCC board, claiming it devoted too few resources to recruitment for EMCC’s $42 million advanced manufacturing training center, commonly known as Communiversity. “It can’t be fixed,” he told the Rotarians.
The accuracy of Higgins’ grim pronouncement remains to be seen. Suffice to say, there are at least 10 citizens who hold a more optimistic view of EMCC’s future — especially as it relates to the school’s operations at Communiversity and the Mayhew campus.
What cannot be disputed is the difficult tasks facing the EMCC Board, where two campuses with competing interests vie for limited resources. Much as it is with Gulf Coast Community College, which has campuses in Wiggins and Gulfport, EMCC faces the difficult task of balancing the interests of two distinctly different concepts.
The Scooba campus represents a traditional view of community college, one whose primary focus is on providing two years of affordable education for students who plan to continue their work toward a degree at a four-year institution. It is a campus whose facilities and amenities closely duplicate those found at a four-year school: dormitories and facilities required for a residential campus with other amenities, such as athletics.
The Mayhew/Communiveristy campus focuses more heavily, but not exclusively, on career-track education. Its graduates are far more likely to go straight into the workforce. There are no dormitories. It’s a commuter campus.
EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks faces a great challenge in trying to meet the needs and interests of two campuses whose visions are so different. It’s a difficult balancing act he faces, and he’ll need a board that can work together, negotiate and compromise while remaining an advocate for the interests of their region.
For the Lowndes County appointees, that means protecting and promoting the interests of the Mayhew/Communiversity campus. But it doesn’t mean warfare in the boardroom. The job requires intelect, patience and diplomacy.
The backgrounds of the 10 applicants give us reason to believe those who are ultimately selected will be up to the challenge, formidable though it may be.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.