WESTMINSTER — Karen Reinertson has added some student art to her new office, but it was still a little bare earlier this week.
Her sudden appointment to the presidency of Front Range Community College has left little time for decorating.
Reinertson, 61, spent the better part of her first week bouncing from campus to campus to familiarize herself with the staff and in meetings with her new cabinet.
“It was a good week to start because of all of the (in-service days) and it allowed me to get to all three campuses to touch base,” she said.
Her first day on the job was Aug. 15, following on the heels of two weeks of controversy generated by her appointment to the post and the abrupt departure of her predecessor, Janet Gullickson.
The turnover was so sudden, in fact, that a woman at the information desk at the main campus at Westminster said the college was without a president, although she was still willing to offer directions to what she believed was an empty office.
Reinertson said the office may be empty a lot. She said she plans to be out and about on the three FRCC campuses and allaying fears about the school’s future under her leadership.
Heading into her second week as FRCC president, Reinertson is working against the backdrop of a faculty group that wants Gullickson’s departure investigated for improprieties, and a state legislator accusing Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, of unethical and possibly illegal dealings regarding Gullickson’s departure and Reinertson’s appointment.
Gullickson, who was in the post for one year, was popular among faculty and students.
McCallin’s office sent an e-mail to college staff July 21 announcing Gullickson’s resignation. McCallin said she and Gullickson signed an agreement that precludes them from speaking about Gullickson’s departure.
McCallin appointed Reinertson to replace Gullickson two weeks later.
Reinertson spent her second day on the job last week in Longmont, meeting local officials who have business with Front Range.
Reinertson said she has already spoken with leaders from campus faculty senates and will ease into making major decisions at the college.
“You need to take the time to figure out what is going on with people,” she said, noting that she will hold off on hiring a new academic vice president. She also said she will work to keep everyone up to date on changes at the college.
Already, she said, she has come to understand that Front Range’s service area in Boulder County is only going to grow. She said she has heard proposals for a permanent campus in Longmont. Short of that, she said, the college may look into long-term leases or lease-purchase possibilities.
Currently, the Boulder County campus is housed in buildings on Miller Drive in Longmont. The college has a seven-year lease on the buildings.
She said her primary concern as president of the largest community college in the state is to make sure that education is accessible to underserved populations. She said that could mean working in public school districts to help students in eighth or ninth grades understand that college is both accessible and worthwhile.
Reinertson said her parents worked hard to make sure she could attend school. Her father was the first one in the family to graduate from high school
Most of Reinertson’s professional experience has been in state and county government. She left a position in Gov. Owens’ cabinet as executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to take the post at Front Range. For seven years before her cabinet appointment she worked for a firm specializing in government relations and lobbying for private clients.
From 1990 to 1994, Reinertson was the director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting under Gov. Roy Romer.
Reinertson was born in Mexico, Mo., and grew up in Cheyenne, Wyo.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in social studies education from the University of Wyoming in 1968. In 1973, she earned her master’s degree in sociology from Colorado State University.
She has two adult children.
Reinertson, who lives in Aurora, said her intent when she was in graduate school was to work in a community college. However, the economy in the 1970s didn’t allow her to take that course.
Instead, when she graduated, she began working for government-based organizations, including Colorado Counties Inc.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.