Tod Treat, one of three candidates to replace Central Oregon Community College President Shirley Metcalf, knows that the school’s enrollment has dipped by over 30 percent since the 2011-12 school year. But he said he understands that enrollment typically falls when the economy is strong and is confident in COCC being able to weather the storm.

“When the economy turns, as invariably it will, the college will be there for the community to make sure there’s access for students who are desiring to retrain or better their education,” he said.

Treat, 49, arrived in Bend Thursday to meet with school administrators, students and the community. He is the interim vice president for instruction at Wenatchee Valley College in central Washington. Before that, the native of St. Joseph, Illinois, served for five years as the vice president for academic and student affairs at Tacoma Community College. He noted that Wenatchee, which also covers a wide geographic district and serves a large Latino and Native American population, has some similarities to COCC.

Treat, who earned his doctorate in education from the University of Illinois, said that if chosen as COCC’s next president, he’d want to take his time and get a feel for the school and region before making any major decisions.

“I am not particularly interested in changing the direction of the college as I am trying to understand the current culture of the college and what the college values,” he said. “Certainly, any future for COCC that’s strong starts with understanding the current values of the institution and preserving them.”

Treat said current COCC programs that he finds successful are those that serve the needs of Central Oregon’s economy, such as the school’s culinary and massage therapy classes.

The candidate didn’t wish to comment on COCC campus security’s conflict with local law enforcement, who say the school’s security officers look and act too similar to official police officers and the department underreports crimes to Bend Police.

If selected, Treat said he would work with the board to find a solution, but for now, “It’s premature for me to answer that question.”

Treat, along with fellow COCC president candidate Kimberlee Messina, are also in the running for the Salem area’s community college president position. Treat was named on Tuesday as a finalist for Chemeketa Community College’s presidential position, according to the Salem Reporter. Treat said it’s common for administrators in interim positions to look at multiple job opportunities, and didn’t state which job he would take if offered both.

Having first visited Central Oregon many years ago on a camping trip to La Pine State Park, Treat said he and his family have “had half an eye on this region” since and were excited about the possibility of moving to Bend and serving COCC.

“I’m really humbled to be a candidate,” he said.

The third and final presidential candidate, Laurie Chesley, will visit Central Oregon next week. The COCC board of directors’ goal is to name the new president by early March, and the selected candidate will replace Metcalf, who is retiring July 1.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854,