LONGMONT — Colorado Community College System President Nancy McCallin considered only one candidate — a longtime friend and colleague — to replace Front Range Community College President Janet Gullickson, who abruptly resigned in July.
McCallin said she “thought” of other candidates but spoke with only Karen Reinertson, who started this week as the new leader of the 13-college state system’s largest college.
“I have known Karen for a long time,” McCallin said Tuesday. “I am not going to leave our largest campus without somebody in charge.”
McCallin said she began considering Reinertson to lead a community college because Community College of Denver President Christine Johnson was a finalist for a superintendent job with the Denver Public Schools. On June 27, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education tapped Michael Bennet for the post, leaving Johnson in the top spot at CCD and Reinertson without a community college job.
The same day that DPS made the superintendent announcement, Gullickson met with McCallin for her job review. On July 6, Gullickson and her attorney, Dan Goodwin, met with McCallin. On July 21, McCallin’s office announced Gullickson’s “voluntary resignation,” which included a provision to assign Gullickson to a consultant role with the system through December and agreement that neither side would discuss the circumstances of Gullickson’s departure.
Reinertson was appointed to the FRCC job Aug. 3.
“I knew I had someone with proven management experience,” McCallin said.
Gullickson had been in the job for only one year and was hired after a nationwide search. Her resignation shocked the Front Range community, where she was considered a popular leader.
The State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education in November 2004 delegated its power to hire, fire, determine compensation for and evaluate all community college presidents to McCallin, who started her position in October 2004.
Prior to the resolution, the board decided on a case-by-case basis whether the system president could use direct appointment or promote within the system, or whether a national search would be used.
In order to accept the Front Range Community College presidency, Reinertson resigned from Gov. Bill Owens’ Cabinet, where she had served as the executive director of health-care policy and financing. Her tenure there was fraught with controversy in 2004 when a new $200 million computer system intended to streamline the delivery of social service benefits like pensions, food stamps and cash assistance instead caused thousands of delays in issuing benefits. Some new applicants to the system complained that their applications were delayed for months. The system is still being fixed.
Reinertson said she intended to work within community colleges when she earned her master’s degree in 1973 but that the economy forced her to look for work elsewhere.
In addition to Owens, she also has worked for former Gov. Roy Romer, as the director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting. She doesn’t have any experience working in higher education.
Reinertson said her lack of work within colleges isn’t material in this case.
“Managing things is different than being an academic,” she said.
McCallin said she has known Reinertson for 15 or 16 years and has been impressed with her problem-solving abilities. Given tightening state finances, McCallin said Reinertson’s budgetary experience was a factor in her decision to put Reinertson at the helm of a community college.
“It was obviously key,” she said.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at email@example.com.