GREENPORT — Columbia-Greene Community College officials have started to search for a new president in preparation for President James Campion’s retirement in June.
Campion, 68, the fifth and longest-serving president of the college in its 52-year history, announced Oct. 17 he will retire after the 2018-2019 school year ends. Campion has served as president of the lone higher-education institution in the Twin Counties since 2000.
The college started the process of searching for a new president with the formation of an 18-member search committee, including C-GCC faculty, administration, staff, students, representatives from Columbia and Greene counties and the State University of New York. Fifteen of the members will vote for the new president when there is a nomination.
Peter O’Hara, vice chairman of the C-GCC Board of Trustees is the head of the committee.
“Columbia and Greene counties each have their own identities and points of pride as well as their own challenges,” O’Hara said. “A deep understanding of our evolving role in these communities is of paramount importance for our next chief administrative officer.”
The ideal candidate will demonstrate strength in academic development, facilities management, fundraising and maintaining a positive campus culture for students, faculty, staff and the community at-large, O’Hara said.
To assist with the process of finding Campion’s replacement, the college hired higher-education executive search firm RH Perry and Associates to help draw up a job description, identify problems the committee might experience and search for candidates.
The committee has 24 scheduled meetings throughout the search process, which will involve announcing the position with required skill sets, degrees and professional experiences, reviewing applications and interviewing selected candidates. The process is set to be completed by July 1 — the date the new president will start.
The final candidates will be introduced to the college community for review. A final candidate will be selected and presented to the Board of Trustees for appointment.
“It will be quite a thorough search,” said Chatham Town Supervisor Maria Lull. “I am looking forward to opening a new chapter for the college in the future.”
Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matthew Murell appointed Lull to the search committee as a county representative.
“[James Campion] has served the college and the students very well over the years,” Lull said. “The new candidate will have to embody all the qualifications that will lead the college into a new era.”
Treasurer Peter Markou will represent Greene County on the search committee.
Lull highlighted challenges the new president may face, including the Twin Counties’ declining younger population, which has taken its toll on the college’s enrollment numbers in recent years.
Columbia and Greene counties saw a steady decrease of people under the age of 20 from 2010 to 2017, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2010, Columbia County had 14,165 residents under 20, but that number is estimated to have dropped to 11,806 in 2017.
In Greene County, 10,906 residents were under 20 in 2010, which steadily decreased to 9,067 people for 2017, according to the bureau’s estimates.
The estimates also show steady declines in the Twin Counties population from 2010 to 2017. Columbia County had just over 63,000 residents in 2010 and 60,600 in 2017, according to the bureau.
Greene County had about 49,140 residents in 2010, which has decreased to 47,470 in 2017.
“We are seeing a population decrease and colleges are in competition with each other,” Lull said. “The next president needs to be proactive in creating programs that attract students — not just doing the same thing.”
The Hudson City School District had its lowest enrollment in six years with 1,767 students. Several districts in the county have also seen a steadily declining enrollment, seeing their lowest enrollment in six years with the exception of New Lebanon Central School District, which had 549 students last year, but dipped to lowest enrollment totals of 403 students in the 2014-15 school year.
Since taking over as president, Campion has pushed the college through multiple fluctuations in student enrollment including during the 2008 recession and again this year.
The president has started preparations for the college’s future with a $20 million capital project. The renovation project will include upgrades to the campus’ technology and infrastructure, making parts of the campus compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, updating emergency and security systems and renovating space to host new programs, which will enhance the learning environment for students.
Construction began after the spring semester ended in May. The project will be done in stages until its completion in 2021.