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HCC trustees narrowly split on whether to expand their search for new president

The Haywood Community College Board of Trustees have apparently rejected five finalists in its search for a new college president and will now cast a wider net by selecting five additional candidates.

In a split vote earlier this month, the Board of Trustees decided to expand their search for a new president after interviewing its five finalists. The board will meet at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 20 to discuss the process for going forward.

After months of searching for someone to replace the current president Rose Johnson, the board announced its five finalists on June 25. Each then took turns visiting the campus, meeting staff, faculty, students and area residents, during late July.

But, after all five finalists visited the campus, the Board of Trustees voted 6-5 to review all applications received during the initial collection of resumes and select five additional candidates to be interviewed. The process will include submitting a video and having a personal interview.

“We just want to make sure we get the best person to fill that position,” said Bob Morris, chair of the board, who is serving as the spokesman on behalf of the trustees. Morris personally voted not to reopen the search, but was in the minority.

Morris would not disclose why he voted the way he did.

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“I know why I voted, and I will keep my opinion to myself on that,” Morris said.

The motion passed with Patsy Dowling, Bill Barker, Bill Yarborough, Charles Boyd, Richard Lanning, and Mary Ann Enloe voting to expand the search. Morris, Peggy Melville, Patsy Rogers, Steve Sorrells, and Brian Briggs voted “no.”

Although the board is considering five new candidates, Morris claimed that the five finalists — Douglas W. Allen, Barbara Beebe, John D. Gossett, Keith Mackie and Teresa E. Smith — are still in the running. The board’s decision does not automatically mean that the five are out altogether, he said.

“I couldn’t make that assumption. I wouldn’t make that assumption,” Morris said.

HCC is conducting a nationwide search to find the person who will serve as their next president. Donnie Hunter, president and CEO of North Carolina Association of Community College Trustees and president of National Search and Education Consulting, facilitated the search. The initial group of 25 applicants was narrowed to 12 candidates and then to five finalists by a 17-member search committee, comprised of various people from HCC and Haywood County.

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