The Northwestern Michigan College trustee race has drawn two incumbents and two newcomers. It's a strong field of fair options, but we recommend incumbent Cheryl Gore Follette and Kennard Weaver, a retired attorney who has been attending board meetings for about two years.
Follette has been on the board for 18 years, which in many cases would not be cause for a recommendation. But she has created a key role for herself by asking a lot of tough questions, demanding accountability and, most lately, leading the common-sense effort to have college employees contribute to their health care costs.
Follette says the college's biggest challenge, even during a time of steadily rising enrollment, is the continued decline in state funding. Even with an influx of students, there is pressure to consistently raise tuition to be fiscally sound, a move she said she opposes.
She said she's satisfied the college has done well during the downturn. "We are accessible and we are affordable. When we stop doing those things, we stop meeting the needs of the community," she said.
Weaver, 70, is retired as senior partner of Baker & Daniels, an international law firm with 450 lawyers. He has attended most NMC board meetings over the past two years plus the last two board retreats.
Weaver said he wants to see NMC become a four-year institution and would like to see the college search out opportunities to offer training to local firms rather than waiting for them to come to the college.
"We should be training people to go out and get a job," he said, "teach people how to be a job holder, train them how to adapt and prepare for the future."
He also thinks the board needs to pay much more attention to the budget via a board financial committee and concentrate more on applying resources to goals instead of minor operational issues such as snowplowing contracts.