Local elections matter: Columbia Gorge Community College

Published on May 15, 2019 as a Letter to the Editor in the Hood River News.

The three Hood River County positions in the Board of Education of the Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) are up for election on May 21st. There are four candidates: Randy Helm (Position 3), Robin Feuerbacher and Tim Arbogast (Position 4) and myself (Position 6).

None of us is an elected incumbent. The recently retired Board members (Stu Watson, whom I substituted by appointment in January; Lee Fairchild; and Charlotte Arnold) deserve the community’s deepest appreciation. Together with the four Wasco County Board members (all newly elected in 2017), Stu, Charlotte and Lee led last Summer’s hiring of the new CGCC President, Dr. Marta Cronin. To their great collective credit, her hiring and other developments signal and potentiate essential changes in vision and approach.

While already a regional asset, CGCC is sub-critical in numbers of students and faculty, and thus programs. Growth is needed for enhanced services and stronger impact. An important step will be the recently approved construction in The Dalles of CGCC’s new Skills Center, with major funding from the State, Wasco County, and the City and Port of The Dalles. This Center will open programmatic opportunities on construction and other trades, aviation maintenance, and other priority areas for the community we serve.

In its evolving vision, CGCC seeks better alignment and more engagement with the Gorge community. It aims to serve a larger and more diverse student body, through more and enhanced programs. And it embraces more data-driven and transparent decision-making, and sounder financial management.

Success and innovation will require careful planning, and will benefit from diverse perspectives, healthy dialogue and hard-earned consensus. Challenges will abound. Meeting them will necessitate synergistic efforts by the CGCC administration, Board, faculty, staff, students, and community at large—but is well within reach.

Please take the May election as an incentive to learn about or re-engage with the College. Together, we can make CGCC a transformative lifelong educational resource that adds essential skills, vitality and strength to the Gorge community.

— Antonio Baptista

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not purport to represent CGCC or its Board of Education.

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