Resignations point to changes at Walla Walla Community College

A trio of program leaders are on their way out, and permanent replacements could be a while in coming.

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WALLA WALLA -- The departure of three program leaders at Walla Walla Community College could mean more changes for those programs in the months ahead.

During its monthly meeting Wednesday, the college's Board of Trustees reviewed the resignations of Karen Lennon as director of the William A. Grant Water & Environmental Center; Robert W. Wood as program manager of the Culinary Arts program; and Del Wilde, program coordinator and instructor for the John Deere program.

Two of those positions are being filled in the interim by current college administrators. Jim Peterson, vice-president of administrative services, is the acting director of the water center until a replacement is hired, said Mindy Stevens, vice president of Workforce Education. Stevens will serve as program manager for the culinary arts program until that position is refilled or restructured.

The water center is among the newest buildings on campus. It has quickly become a successful resource regionally and in the state for focusing on water uses and conservation. It is undergoing an expansion that is covered in part by a $3 million federal grant.

The culinary arts program has also benefited from a recent expansion and remodel of the college's cafeteria and kitchen facilities. The program trains students in food service handling and preparation.

A grim financial outlook this year might delay immediate hirings, or could result in some changes to the leadership roles.

Stevens said officials with the John Deere franchise will be at the college next month to talk about the program, and discussions on restructuring may guide how to best fill that program vacancy. In addition to Wilde retiring for health reasons, another John Deere instructor, Don Cort, also recently resigned. Stevens said a part-time instructor was hired and that the program coordinator duties are being handled by staff.

Even finding a director for the water center could be delayed some time. Stevens said the funding for the director position came from the Department of Commerce and was to run through June, without additional funding in place at the moment for the rest of the year. But finding the right director for building would be a priority despite the financial setback.

"We'll find a way to make the water center work," Stevens said. "That's a pretty significant phase of our college."

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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