Former Bend Mayor Jim Clinton faces botany consultant John Short for a seat on the Central Oregon Community College Board. Voters should support Clinton.

COCC is the oldest two-year college in Oregon. It has a 200-acre campus in Bend and satellite campuses in Madras, Prineville and Redmond to serve students from Wasco to Lake counties. Short and Clinton would bring different priorities and experience to the board’s leadership.

Short, 29, attended COCC and went on to study at the University of California-Davis. He has worked as a farm manager and in agricultural education and now has his own local botany consultant business. Short brings up important issues for the campus. He wants to continue the reform of campus security after the rape and murder of Kaylee Sawyer. He wants to make it easier for students with children to attend by providing some child care. And he would like to help break down barriers among faculty, students and the board.

Short presents the race as a choice between the status quo — represented by incumbent board member Clinton — and change — represented by himself. He says if voters are satisfied, they should vote for Clinton. If not, they should vote for Short. While there’s some truth in that argument, Clinton doesn’t really represent the same old way of doing things. He was appointed to the board in January to fill a vacancy and has nuanced ideas for improving the campus.

Clinton, 75, grew up in Lakeview and went on to get his doctorate in physics. He worked mostly in applied physics, for instance on solar energy. He was on the Bend City Council for 12 years, serving four years of that as mayor.

He said the starting point for his decisions is: What’s best for students? That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about faculty and staff, but he is focused on providing students with opportunities and education so they can succeed. To that end, he wants more opportunities for students to take classes online to make it easier for them to access coursework. One related issue he hopes to tackle is to change faculty compensation to ensure they are properly compensated to develop online classes. He said faculty is currently compensated based on classroom time.

He stressed that the campus has already made many changes to ensure campus security is appropriate. Security personnel don’t pull people over. Their uniforms have changed, so they look less like law enforcement officers. The blue police lights are gone from vehicles. And the board is working toward splitting the cost of a Bend police officer with the city to further strengthen the connection to local, professional law enforcement.

Clinton has also been encouraged by the work COCC has been doing to try to get more information to students about educational goals, costs and earnings expectations for careers in various fields. Not every student is going to easily sort out their exact career path, but he wants the college to do a better job of making that information available.

Short would undoubtedly be a good addition to the COCC board. But Clinton’s longer experience in governing boards and his deeper insights into COCC’s challenges and solutions should earn him your vote.

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