The Central Oregon Community College board unanimously agreed on three finalists Wednesday afternoon to replace President Shirley Metcalf next school year. All three have served as administrators at community colleges around the country.

One finalist is Laurie Chesley, who has served as the provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan since 2015. She has 18 years of administrative experience in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Another candidate, Kimberlee Messina, is an education consultant and the former vice president and interim president at Foothill College in the San Francisco Bay Area. Until July, she was the interim vice chancellor for the San Mateo County Community College District in that region.

The third candidate is Tod Treat, the interim vice president for instruction at Wenatchee Valley College in central Washington. Before arriving in Wenatchee in 2018, he was the vice president for academic and student affairs at Tacoma Community College for five years and held other administrative positions at various Illinois community colleges.

Board chair Laura ­Craska Cooper said the college’s presidential search committee felt those three candidates were a cut above the rest of the applicants.

“They have the impressive résumé and ascending experience, but every one of them was student-focused, and that was really important to us,” Craska Cooper said. “We have focused on student success over the past couple years, and we want to tie everything that we do to how it helps our students.”

Board member Erica Skatvold agreed.

“The process was very thorough and thoughtful, and we took a lot of time in selecting these top three candidates,” she said. “I’m excited to meet these people.”

Each candidate will visit COCC for two days in early February, when they’ll be interviewed by the college’s board, attend community meetings in Bend, Redmond, Madras and Prineville and meet with employee groups at COCC’s four campuses.

The board’s goal is to name the new president by early March, and the selected candidate will begin July 1, replacing Metcalf, who announced her retirement last year.

Clinton’s appointment

Former Bend mayor Jim Clinton was also selected as the board’s new member at the special meeting Wednesday. He replaces former board chair John Mundy, who abruptly resigned in December. Clinton served on the Bend City Council from 2004 through 2016, acting as mayor for the final four years of his tenure. The Lakeview native also taught at the University of California, San Diego, and at San Diego Mesa College.

Craska Cooper expressed excitement at Clinton’s appointment, saying he aced the interview sessions.

“He was very interested in students and remembered to talk about students, and that was very important to us,” she said.

Fellow board member Bruce Abernathy felt similarly.

“His responses were extremely comprehensive, very thoughtful,” he said. “He covers all the things the Central Oregon community wants to see in a board member.”

Clinton said he was ready to jump into the COCC board during a busy time filled with presidential candidate interviews.

“I really appreciate the confidence the board members have placed in me,” he said. I do intend to be up to speed immediately on these things that are coming down on us quickly.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854,