By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker announced the opening of the position of president of Southern Union State Community College. This announcement is the culmination of the Southern Union Strategic Planning Initiative announced in August of 2017.
“As promised, the placement of a permanent president for Southern Union State Community College has been made a priority and is moving forward,” Baker said. “Impressive work has been done by the Strategic Planning Committee with input from the entire Bison Community, and a permanent president will be named no later than June of this year.”
Baker announced the appointment of Mark Ellard to serve as interim president of Southern Union effective March 1, 2018. Due to the state’s restrictions on employment for those who have previously retired, William Blow, the appointed leader of the college, will leave the college at the end of February.
“I am grateful for Dr. Blow’s service to not only Southern Union and the Alabama Community College System but to the entire higher education community, his leadership will be greatly missed,” said Chancellor Baker. “Though his time at Southern Union will be short, I’m confident Mark’s experience and skill set are the perfect fit for this transitional time at the college.”
Ellard was most recently the interim president of Chattahoochee Valley Community College. Prior to his time at CVCC, he served as interim president and executive vice president at Bevill State Community College. Ellard has both a Bachelor of Science in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Mr. Ellard is a Certified Public Accountant and is licensed to practice in the State of Alabama.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to continue to serve our community colleges, and I look forward to being a proud member of the Bison community,” said Ellard. “Southern Union is a special place, and I am committed to helping in any way I can to continue the important work the college does on behalf of its students, our faculty and staff, and the greater community.”
Applicants will have until March 19 to submit their applications. An Advisory Search Committee will be appointed to assist the chancellor with reviewing applications. The committee will consist of the ACCS chancellor, Southern Union faculty and staff, an ACCS college president and representatives from local businesses and industries, or community members. After a thorough interview process, the chancellor will make a recommendation to the system’s board of trustees.
Baker told the Opelika Auburn News that he expected to have a president in place before the fall semester began. The last time that Southern Union had a permanent president was 2008, when Susan Salatto was fired by the head of the state’s Two-Year College System, Bradley Byrne, after an investigative panel alleged misuse of scholarships, nepotism, lack of diversity and bid law circumvention. Salatto’s firing was upheld by a state appeals court in 2011.
Southern Union has campuses in Opelika, Wadley and Valley. Baker has appointed a committee to prepare a strategic plan for the college.