QUINCY — John Wood Community College will have a new face at the head of the table once the new year begins.
The school's Board of Trustees unanimously approved the appointment of Bryan Renfro as the seventh John Wood president. The board held the vote Wednesday night at a special meeting, called after a quorum wasn't possible for the regular Oct. 19 meeting.
Renfro currently serves as the vice president of academic instruction at Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas. Previously, Renfro served in various academic affairs leadership roles, including associate vice provost of academic and workforce affairs at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas and dean of business and public services at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa. Throughout his career in higher education, Renfro has taught courses in anthropology, criminal justice and education. He holds a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Arkansas and a doctorate from Iowa State University in higher education administration with an emphasis in community college leadership.
"I am thrilled and genuinely honored by the opportunity to return to my wife's hometown and be a part of the community we call home," Renfro said through a Zoom conference at Wednesday's meeting. "My family and I are looking forward to relocating, being in the community, and being involved. Working to expand educational opportunities for others has been my professional life's sole principle and aim. In short, the work that each of us does at the community college is essential.
"I believe we can make the world a better place through John Wood Community College. I am genuinely honored and grateful for this opportunity."
Board chair Diane Ary thanked the candidates for their time and interest in the position, as well as thanking the search committee for their work in guiding the search to replace Michael Elbe. Elbe announced earlier this year that he intends to step down as president of the school effective Dec. 31.
"We believe Dr. Renfro will continue our emphasis on the mission of the College: enrichment of lives through learning by providing accessible educational opportunities," Ary said. "Dr. Renfro’s strong drive for results, balanced with his strategic orientation makes him a natural fit to carry the torch for JWCC with respect to student success, enrollment growth, Career and Technical program development, and leadership within our College and community. Our board is confident that Dr. Renfro will provide a seamless transition in delivering strategic, financial, and operational leadership for John Wood Community College."
Outgoing president Mike Elbe said with the selection of Renfro, his job will shift from the day-to-day operations of the school to helping make the transition as smooth as possible.
"I'll continue to lead the college, but during this time, I'll also be helping Dr. Renfro transition into this leadership role," Elbe said. "I think one of my main focuses in helping him in the transition, and one thing he's asked me to help with, is the introduction to our community. Because of my involvement with the United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, GREDF, and other partnerships, I'll be able to introduce him to community leaders, business leaders, and other partners. Helping him get to know them, and helping them get to know him."
Dr. Randy Greenwell, a member of the John Wood board, said the selection of the new president was the smoothest process he's seen in more than 30 years working in education.
"We had members of the community, the Foundation, faculty, staff, and the board of trustees, and we had unanimous agreement on the top three. And that took us less than an hour to come to that decision," Greenwell said.
Greenwell praised the help of the Pauly Group, Inc., for helping manage the search and handle important aspects such as reviewing references that made the process even easier.
"The main thing I want the community to know is that we've gotten a candidate that the whole board agreed to," he said. "He has ties to the community since his wife is from Pittsfield, he's visited John Wood when they were here visiting family, and he was extremely motivated to come here, and he's got great credentials and a long history of serving in community colleges. I think he'll be an excellent extension from the work Mike has done to bridge the school and the community.
Renfro is slated to take the reins at John Wood effective on Jan. 4.
At Wednesday's meeting, the board also approved a mortgage agreement with the U.S. Economic Development Administration related to the grant funds used for the expansion of John Wood's Workforce Development Center.
As attorney Jim Rapp explained to the board, the 20-year agreement says if the school sells the property in that time, then a prorated portion of the grant dollars would have to be returned. The board was told this condition of the grant was included in the original grant documents, but that the U.S. EDA has been behind on paperwork, so it was just now coming to the board for approval.
In other business, the JWCC Board:
• Accepted over $750,000 in grant funds, including $540,000 over four years from the U.S. Department of Labor for the Strengthening Community College Training Grants.
• Approved the resolution and certificate abating the tax levied for the year 2022 to pay debt service on the General Obligation Refunding Bonds.
• Approved an increase of 16% in John Wood Community College health insurance premiums, effective January 1, 2023.
• Heard a report on the JWCC Truck Driver Training program from JWCC Associate Professor Phil Steinkamp regarding regulation changes, program restructuring, enrollment, and future plans for the program including the Workforce Development Expansion project.
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