Two FRC candidates outline issues, qualifications in Nov. 6 trustee race

On Nov. 6, voters countywide will choose between two at-large candidates running for one seat on the Feather River College Board of Trustees.

Seeking to represent Indian Valley (Area 4) and be elected by the entire FRC district are challenger Margaret Elysia Garcia and incumbent Guy McNett.

Following Feather Publishing’s Sept. 19 story about the FRC race, the candidates accepted an opportunity to further introduce themselves to the voters and provided the following information.

These are their unedited responses to the questions posed. The candidates were not given a word limit.

Margaret Elysia Garcia, Greenville

Why are you running for a seat on the FRC Board of Trustees?

I’m running first and foremost because our board needs stronger, independent-of-the-president representation that can speak to community needs rather than rubber stamp policy. We need critical and creative thinking, and innovation.

I have been waiting for the rep in Area 4 to take a stand, bring back classes to the outlying communities, advocate for adults heading back to school and first-generation students, bring back quality vocational programs, voice opposition to wasteful spending and squandering of opportunity.

It’s been years. I’ve decided to wait no longer. I’ve been inspired by women around the country who are running for office this year and not second guessing their — my — clear qualifications and talents. I understand the workings of community colleges and that each component of the college needs to work together to make a great school.

What experience do you bring to the position?

I have taught college-level courses at four-year and two-year colleges since 1998. I spent 11 years teaching at Feather River College (I retired from the college in Summer 2015).

During my time as a college instructor, I kept abreast of both my department (English) and community college governance by going to conferences and meetings throughout California and other states such as the Modern Language Association convention, Associated Writing Programs conventions, Conference of College Composition, California Acceleration Project conferences and Latinas at Community Colleges Network.

I served on the associated instructors (adjuncts) union leadership during crucial contract renegotiation years.

While at FRC in particular, I created speaker series, served as faculty member of record for student groups, helped students outside of class negotiate campus and the community and served on hiring committees as the associated adjunct representative, amongst other tasks and accomplishments.

Presently, I teach creative writing and playwriting through the William James Association’s Arts in Corrections program for state prisons in Susanville where I also serve as lead artist and liaison between the prisons, the artists and the parent organization.

I, along with Tina Terrazas, co-founded and manage Pachuca Productions — Plumas County’s new theatre troupe and soon-to-be nonprofit organization that serves to bring original and contemporary theatre to all pockets of Plumas and neighboring counties to encourage students and community members to share their voices on stage.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I served on the Plumas-Sierra counties literacy board earlier in the decade. I was also the president of Northern Californians for Proportional Representation in 1995-1996 (it became Californians for Electoral Reform). Gaps in time reflect raising two children to their present teen years.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the college?

There is so much potential for growth at the college, but some vital elements need to be addressed first. Numbers of students are down but it’s not because the economy is up, it’s because we aren’t currently serving the entire community/county and supporting students the way we should.

What does it say when Plumas County residents make long treks to community colleges in Truckee Meadows, Lassen, and Butte for classes when there is a college right here? How do we make college accessible for the entire county?

How do we support our adults going back to school more effectively? How do we bring back vocational education that is focused on the needs of the whole community not just select programs?

How do we retain students who come to Plumas County ill prepared for both the weather and way of life? How do we address housing in a meaningful way?

How do we attract and retain quality educators and pull from resources in our area that we may be taking for granted or under utilizing? How do we make sure we are taking care of the needs of all of our teachers and staff?

The biggest challenge is hooking everyone into the college community as well as getting the college more integrated into community life. There are such wonderful things being done by individuals all over the county to help support students — but we need more connection, cohesion and exchange of resources and information — and a lot more transparency on the board — and willingness to hear all sides of an issue, research and not just take everything we vote on at the face value of the presenter.

Guy McNett, Indian Falls

Why are you running to retain your seat on the FRC Board of Trustees?

I’ve seen Feather River College change lives, especially in my six years on the Board of Trustees. I’ve seen young students that my wife, Linda, and I worked with in kindergarten now using their FRC experience to improve their lives.

I’ve seen older students come to Feather River College to redirect their lives. I’ve seen students from California and all over the United States come here for the small school, rural experience that is Feather River College.

I want to continue to contribute to all the opportunities and benefits that Feather River College offers its students and Plumas County as a whole.

What experience do you bring to the position?

Over the years, I have had extensive community service experience: Chairman of the Plumas County Arts Commission, serving on Plumas Unified School District Committees including the 7-11 high school consolidation effort, 10 years as Chair of the Indian Valley Healthcare and Ambulance Service Districts and, of course, six years as a Feather River College Trustee.

One of the things I’ve learned in those years of community service is that if you are going to be effective, you must be willing and able to listen carefully to others and to work cooperatively with them as well.

There’s a lot going on at FRC academically, financially, administratively, interpersonally and legally.

Only teamwork can cover it all.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the college?

Feather River is a community college. However, it can’t be everything to everyone in the community. It’s simply not feasible. The biggest challenge for FRC is trying to balance the expectations of everyone in the community.

There are certainly specific challenges, housing, for example. Obviously, this is why the college recently renovated the assisted-living facility behind Safeway to accommodate 55 students. (There are accommodations for 160 in the dorms and 30 in the Meadows Apartments.)

There are no housing-designated funds in the California Community College system because it’s not an issuefor them, since only seven out of 114 community colleges offer housing.

FRC has to internally generate the capital for housing construction.

Also, the geographical size of our district is huge, with some communities 50 miles from the campus in Quincy with its resources and experiences. Free bus service for all students in the county attempts to address this challenge.

The alternative of remote campuses in all three outlying communities would be prohibitively expensive.

Finally, it should be kept in mind that FRC has one of the very smallest student bodies in California, which means our resources are limited.

However, I believe our small size is also one of our greatest strengths. Administrators, counselors and faculty — in many cases — have a personal relationship with our students.

There’s a feeling of “family” at FRC. I feel that’s critical, especially in the first years away from home.