Candidates for the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees include everything from a former police officer to a political analyst, and all have special ties to the education community.
The candidates will run for the seats currently held by Shirley Brown VanArsdale, board chair, and Melody Rayl and Benjamin B. Hodge, as well as a newly-created seventh seat on the board. The nonpartisan race is at-large for the seats with a four-year term, and voters will select up to four of the seven candidates.
The Dispatch spoke with four of the 10 candidates last week: former Dist. 17 Rep. Stephanie Sharp, attorney Peter Jouras, journalist and JCCC student Miguel Morales, and CPA David Weeks. This week, candidates Jerry Cook, Robert Drummond, Hodge, John Kanaga, John Papazafiropoulos and Rayl shared their reasons for running.
Cook, Overland Park, is currently the president of the Overland Park Convention and Visitors Bureau, but in his career he has been an elementary school teacher and principal and a superintendent, as well as a regional sales manager and vice president of large corporations.
“I have been extremely blessed to experience diverse career opportunities,” he said. “I believe it is time for me to apply such, so as to sustain the excellent programs at the college, and at the same time, work with all constituencies to establish policy, which will assist the college in becoming what it is yet to be, for students of all ages.”
Cook received an education degree from Moorhead State University in Minnesota and a masters degree in education from the University of North Dakota. He received a doctorate in education administration from the University of Wyoming.
Drummond, Olathe, is currently the president and CEO of the TLC for Children and Families organization. He formerly served as vice president of campus life and director of admissions and financial aid at Mid-America Nazarene University. He also served 18 years on the Olathe school district’s Board of Education.
Drummond received degrees in education, history and psychology from Morningside College in Iowa, as well as a master’s in counseling psychology and a doctorate in higher education leadership from Kansas University.
Drummond said JCCC was one of the “crown jewels” of the county and he would like to further enhance its services, classes and reputation.
“My intent is to use my experience in working with the trustees, administration, faculty and community to enhance the excellence of our hometown community college and at the same time maintain a reasonable level of tax support from the community,” he said.
Hodge, Overland Park, is a political consultant and Johnson County native who was first elected to the board in April 2005. A Kansas State University graduate, he also served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2006-08.
Hodge said he wanted to continue on the board to maintain JCCC’s services while ensuring the college does not raise its property tax rate and its governance remains transparent.
Kanaga, Shawnee, is currently employed with a law firm and also is a staff editor for the Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy. Kanaga obtained two degrees from KU and is currently pursuing his law degree at the University of Kansas School of Law.
Kanaga said his priorities as a trustee included continuing to provide quality, affordable and accessible education and utilizing the resources and contributions of JCCC for furthering economic development.
“The continued success of JCCC translates into expanded work force opportunities in the county and a more civically active community,” Kanaga said.
Papazafiropoulis, 44, teaches college courses locally and online for several institutions and is starting his own educational consulting firm. He is a captain in the Civil Air Patrol.
He has a degree in psychology and a master of science in urban studies from the University of South Alabama. He is currently completing a doctorate in business and leadership from Capella University.
Papazafiropoulis said he wanted to run for the board because of his commitment to education.
“I believe that education is not only the solution to our current economic issues but the best way to avoid getting in similar economic situations in the future,” he said. “JCCC is an outstanding institution and my experience in higher education makes me an ideal candidate for the trustee position. I feel that it is my civic duty to participate in government and to ensure quality and accountability.”
Rayl, Olathe, was appointed to fill Virginia Krebs’ position on the board in November after Krebs’ resignation. Rayl is an attorney and a former assistant professor in the administration of justice program at JCCC.
She was a police officer in Leawood and Overland Park for nearly 20 years prior to becoming an attorney and spent six years in military intelligence in the U.S. Army.
Rayl received her law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, graduating summa cum laude in 2007. She had previously received a criminal justice degree from Park University and an associate’s degree in administration of justice from JCCC.
She said she decided to run for re-election given her involvement with the college for the last 20 years.
“I consider it one of the finest community colleges in the country,” she said. “In these times of economic turmoil and rising unemployment, it is essential that we do everything we can to provide a well-educated and well-trained workforce in order to ensure continued growth of our public agencies, businesses and industry. Education is one of the vital ingredients to a thriving economy, and I look forward to doing my part to preserve the standard of excellence Johnson Countians have enjoyed for so long.”