Tag Archives: AC Board of Regents

City’s political mini-deluge about to end

I’ve wondered from time to time about what it might be like to live in one of those presidential “battleground states,” where candidates flood the local TV airwaves with ads and residents’ mailboxes with campaign circulars.

Living in Texas for the past nine presidential election cycles has inoculated my family from that kind of political browbeating. The presidential candidates haven’t fought for our votes.

Ahh, but then we get to 2017and little ol’ Amarillo has received a tiny smattering of what our battleground-state residents endure every four years.

Amarillo Matters has taken root in our city. It has generated a fair amount of interest in Saturday’s municipal election. Voters who haven’t cast their ballots early are going to show up at polling places to cast their votes for all five City Council seats.

Then the mini-deluge from Amarillo Matters will end.

My doorbell has rung three times during this campaign as Amarillo Matters volunteers have handed out circulars. My mailbox has contained campaign material almost daily for the past two weeks. Today, my wife and I returned from our daily walk through the ‘hood and listened to the tail end of an Amarillo Matters robo-call on our home phone.

I’m glad to see such activity in our city. Amarillo Matters has sought to generate some increased interest in our municipal election, and not just for the City Council. It’s been working as well on behalf of candidates for Amarillo College Board of Regents.

Amarillo Matters has kicked a lot of money into this campaign as well, reportedly spending a significant six-figure amount to back the slate of City Council candidates it has endorsed.

I haven’t heard a lot of grumbling about all this attention, although there’s likely been some muttering under people’s breath around the city. That goes with the territory.

But here comes a dose of bad news.

All this juice from a well-heeled, deep-pocketed political action committee isn’t likely to boost total voter turnout in Amarillo to anything remotely significant. Mayor Paul Harpole, who isn’t running for re-election, said on Panhandle PBS that he projects a turnout of 12,000 to 14,000 voters. Hmm. That’s slightly more than 10 percent of the city’s registered voters.

To be candid, I am far less concerned about whether Amarillo Matters’ slate of candidate wins on Saturday than I am about the dismal turnout we can expect when all the ballots are counted.

Ten-plus percent turnout doesn’t grant bragging rights to anyone.

Thus, Amarillo Matters’ infusion of interest in this campaign has a long way to go to declare victory.

Still, I now have a smidgen of an idea of what occurs in those presidential battleground states. If only it translated to more involvement at the polling place — where it really counts.

Regents chose well with Lowery-Hart

OK, so I’m a little late commenting on this one, but I’ll weigh in nonetheless.

Amarillo College’s Board of Regents made a sterling choice in naming Russell Lowery-Hart as the college’s next president.

Having said that, I still wish Lowery-Hart would have been put to a stronger test than he got before regents named him their sole finalist for the post, succeeding Paul Matney, who retired after a 40-plus-year affiliation with the college.

Lowery-Hart was second in command at AC. So he doesn’t climb many rungs on the ladder to take the top administrative job.

I get that regents know him well, that he knows the college political and academic infrastructure inside and out, and that he has virtually no learning curve to negotiate as he takes command of the staff.

Over the past few weeks I’ve visited with friends associated with Amarillo College. They all sang Lower-Hart’s praises as a man, an administrator, educator and someone who loves AC. They like his vision and the way he expresses it. They like that he’s “one of us.”

My only wish would have been that regents invited in candidates from other regions, interviewed them along with Lowery-Hart and then considered their visions, outlooks, approaches and credentials.

Something tells me Lower-Hart would have stacked up well against any set of applicants with whom he would compete.

A thorough vetting and comparison with other candidates would have strengthened the local guy tremendously and — were he to still get the job — strengthened the school he was chosen to lead.

Still, I extend my best wishes to the new Amarillo College president.



College finds another home-grown leader

Russell Lowery-Hart appears headed to the office of Amarillo College president.

There goes my advice to the college board of regents, which was to cast a wide net to find a successor to retiring AC President Paul Matney.

Lowery-Hart is the second in command at AC and the board has voted unanimously to declare him as its sole finalist in the search for a new president.

I still favor wide-as-possible searches — if only to strengthen the local candidates, making them compete head to head with qualified individuals with fresh ideas and outlooks.

That won’t happen with Lowery-Hart, just as it didn’t happen when the college picked Matney to succeed the late Steven Jones, who did come from beyond the Panhandle to run the college before he died.

Lowery-Hart will take office with overwhelming support from AC faculty, staff and students. That gives him a huge advantage, just as it did for Matney.

I am not going to criticize this pending appointment. I’ve heard from those close to the situation that Lowery-Hart brings a lot to the office. He’s a West Texas A&M University grad; he got graduate degrees from Texas Tech University. He’s well-educated and knows the college well. He appears to be a solid pick.

I’ve long been amazed about Amarillo College’s community standing. AC seems almost immune to significant criticism, such as what one hears about Potter and Randall county governments, or Amarillo City Hall, or even the Amarillo and Canyon independent school districts. AC has escaped many of the barbs that get tossed at public institutions.

That speaks well for the leadership of the school.

I am optimistic that the new president-in-waiting will maintain that standing.

Look far and wide, Amarillo College

Now that Paul Matney has announced his intention to retire as president of Amarillo College, it’s not too early to light a fire under the school’s governing board of regents.

Cast a wide net, AC regents, in your search for someone to succeed Matney.

The AC president, arguably one of the most highly regarded public officials anywhere in the Texas Panhandle, rose from the ranks to the presidency in 2009. He had served as acting president while the late Steve Jones battled cancer. Matney had served three decades at AC in various faculty and administrative capacities. The school would have been wise then to look outside for a successor to Jones, but it chose instead to stay in-house.

The decision turned out to be a brilliant one.

Matney’s replacement, though, will need to be someone special. Matney’s mark is indelible. Foremost among his accomplishments has been his relentless advocacy of Amarillo College and the astonishing loyalty and ease with which he argues the virtues of the institution that has set student enrollment records for several of the past academic years.

Should regents look solely within the ranks of current administrators? I think not. Amarillo College has established an enough of a stellar reputation among other junior colleges — indeed, among universities — in Texas that qualified administrators would scramble to apply for this office the moment it is posted.

Paul Matney set a high bar for his successor and in the process has created a “headache” most college regents would love to have. They likely will have the chore of poring through a mountain of applications from high-quality candidates seeking to fill some mighty large shoes.