Four people are running for two Rogue Community College board seats being vacated by members whose terms expire at the end of June.
Retired business executive Marcus Heritage and Brett L. Johnson, a lieutenant with the Medford Police Department, are vying for the Zone 3 position.
The Zone 7 position is being sought by Anthony C. "Tim" Alford, retired chief executive officer of Rogue Federal Credit Union, and Ron Fox, executive director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc.
Both zones are in Jackson County. The vote-by-mail special election will be held May 21.
Rogue River resident Heritage, 71, whose education includes a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, said he wants to join the seven-member RCC board to help others discover the same opportunities he has found in education. In addition to working as a business executive, he has also been a research scientist.
"No one in my family had ever gone to college — I didn't even know how to get into college," he said of his blue-collar background. "But teachers came along at the right time to help me get through the process. That was very critical."
Heritage, who also has a master's degree in business administration from the University of Denver, wants to help RCC raise funds while giving the local economy a boost. He has been volunteering to help SOREDI develop existing business opportunities as well as attract more business to the region.
"The fundamental problem with RCC is how to raise the level of funding," he said. "The amount of state funding has dropped dramatically in recent years. The proportion of the state funding for RCC is now down to about 14 percent.
"On the other hand, the demand for education is going up," he added. "If we are ever going to break through the barrier of developing the economy in our area, we have to provide more graduates in the right areas of study."
While there is unemployment, there are also local jobs going unfilled because of lack of a skilled labor force in those areas, he noted.
"I really want to help develop this region economically," he said, adding that RCC can play a pivotal role in achieving that goal. "To do that, we have to have investment and produce a skilled labor force."
If elected, he would approach local business community members to enlist their help, he said.
"We really have to find new ways to find funding for RCC," he said. "I don't know the answer yet but I suspect it may lay in more cooperation from businesses in our area."
The other Zone 3 candidate, Johnson, 45, of Central Point, a graduate of Crater High School and an Army veteran who served in the military police in the late 1980s, also wants to work to ensure that RCC remains viable.
"I believe the need for RCC in Jackson and Josephine counties is only going to increase," he said. "I would like to be a part of the solution in providing for that need."
He noted he directly benefitted from RCC.
"When I came back here from the military and tried to find work, it was pretty tough," he said, adding that he had to go to northern Oregon, finding a law enforcement job in Salem.
"But I wanted to come back down here so I went back to school — to RCC," he said. "It really helped me develop."
His classes at RCC enabled him to get a job with the Medford Police Department, said Johnson, who also has a master's degree in business administration from Corban University in Salem.
"I feel having a substantive affordable education program in Southern Oregon which is accessible to everybody is important," said Johnson, who served in Germany and the Middle East while in the military, including a hitch in the reserves.
Medford resident Alford, 68, said he decided to run for the Zone 7 RCC board position after being asked to throw his hat into the proverbial ring.
"I'm a real believer in community colleges," said Alford, who attended a two-year business college and earned an associate degree before graduating from Northwest Christian College.
A former member of the Asante board, Alford has also served as chief executive officer of the University of Montana Federal Credit Union and executive director of the South Dakota Credit Union League Inc.
"When I was on the Asante board, I recall that Asante was always looking for CNAs and RNs — RCC was always a huge help to fill those needs," he said of the college's efforts to produce medical specialists such as certified nursing assistants and registered nurses.
When he headed the local credit union, Alford said, he came to realize that RCC's contributions went well beyond the medical community.
"RCC has a lot to offer in the form of training and education for the valley," he said.
But Alford also is concerned that RCC, like most colleges and universities, is financially strapped.
"I want to help them any way I can to secure funding, whether it involves working with the state Legislature or with people around the valley," he said. "I want to make sure they are always here.
"This is a good chance to repay RCC for the good it has done here," he added. "It's amazing the number of people they touch."
Zone 7 candidate Fox, an Oregon State University graduate who majored in business and technology, said he wants to help build on RCC's achievements in education and career training.
Fox, who has served as a business manager in state government and in the private sector, noted that RCC now offers classes in 85 career fields.
"With the evolving demands for the skills required by our area's businesses, I hope to provide sound leadership and guidance to help our graduates such as dental assistants, manufacturing technicians and electronic technicians earn excellent wages based on their training received at the college," he said in his submission to the voters' pamphlet.
"Through my work in the field of economic development I understand what our area businesses require for meeting their workforce requirements, especially with the rapid advance in technological and advance production methods," he added.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.