Popularity contest

Although folks today are talking mostly about the weather, I prefer to focus on Amarillo College.

AC’s regents appear to be heading toward a popular choice for the next college president. They’ve elected to look only inside — within the AC ranks — for someone to succeed the late Steven Jones. And to date, they have just one applicant, Paul Matney, who’s been serving as acting president for several months, while Jones battled valiantly against cancer.

The college — not to mention Matney — would have been served better by looking far and wide for a president. But AC has committed to the in-house search, which is the regents’ call.

But just how popular would Matney’s ascension be? Consider this little tidbit.

The AC president’s job is a non-political post, yet Matney wears his politics on his sleeve. He’s a Democrat and proud of it, which doesn’t bother those who know him in the heavily Republican Panhandle.

I attended a luncheon recently. I sat at a table hosted by a longtime Potter County Republican activist. He’s a conservative — and just as proud of his political philosophy as Matney is of his.

Matney passed by our table, said “hello” to everyone there and walked on. My Republican friend then said to his tablemates, “That man needs to be the next Amarillo College president.”

Given that politics so often these days gets in the way of personal relationships and professional respect, that comment looked for all the world like the highest praise imaginable.