Four candidates are competing for two seats on the State Fair Community College Board of Trustees in the April 5 municipal election — incumbent Randall Eaton and newcomers Nick La Strada, Justin Hubbs and Marlin Hammond.
Profiles of Eaton and Hubbs were published in Thursday’s edition of the Democrat.
Nick La Strada
La Strada serves as the Pettis County Clerk and is involved in several civic and nonprofit groups such as Lions Club and Optimist Club. La Strada, a former SFCC student, said giving back is important to him.
“One of my No. 1 reasons is I want to give back to the community, the students, the college, faculty and the staff,” he said of why he decided to run. “… It’s a neat opportunity. The current board has done an awesome job, and if elected as a trustee, I want to make sure keeping the college affordable, supporting the faculty and staff, cheering on the athletic programs, I want to continue. … I want to do my best to bring new ideas and it will broaden my horizons as well.”
La Strada said he couldn’t think of many issues facing the college. A former college athlete, La Strada said he is a supporter of the new athletic programs, but wants to make sure the focus stays on education.
“The one thing I’m really focusing on is the education,” he said. “Having that outreach for everybody to realize this college is affordable and people can use the online classes to their advantage too to better themselves. … That is what I would continue to aim at and keep a positive outreach.”
He offered some suggestions of how State Fair can address the recent enrollment decline.
“Community outreach — being involved with different organizations, trying to get the word out there, keeping the college affordable, and there are new sports coming in,” he said. “… You’ve got softball, baseball and soccer, which will automatically bring more students here. Keep with the positive note, working with the faculty and the staff and trying to continue the outreach.”
The SFCC board has been discussing putting a tax increase issue on an upcoming ballot to help fund a proposed technology center. La Strada didn’t say if he was specifically in favor of a tax increase, but he said any tax issue should be voted on by citizens.
“Nobody wants to hear higher taxes, but the truth of the matter is you have to have money to function with government and college and schools,” he said. “For me, if there are different ways we can work as a board and staff and faculty to maybe do some sort of different fundraisers or whatever we can to help with this project. Any board that has to vote for a tax raise, give it to the vote of the people. If the people say yes, that will speak volumes right there that there is a service that is needed for the community and the college.”
His goals include keeping good communication with the faculty, staff and students, and learning and growing with the new experience.
“This position is dear to my heart. I’m dedicated to anything I do. I will work hard,” he said of why citizens should vote for him. “… I didn’t sign up for this just to sign up for it. This is something I really thought about and I do want to give back and I do want to be here for the people. … It’s proven, I’ve done a lot of things for the community and I will continue to do things for the community if elected as a trustee.”
Hammond has worked in education in various roles since 1974, retiring in 2007. He still serves as junior high basketball coach and assistant coach of softball in Lincoln. He attended State Fair from 1970-72.
“I’m really interested in the expansion of the sports. I’ve got a good background in that and I’d like to be able to help out if I could,” Hammond said of his decision to run. “Also, we’ve got a great facility and system here, I’d just like to see us expand and keep it growing and doing as much as we can for the students of the area.”
Hammond said a top issue for SFCC is expanding current programs at the school.
“It’s important to expand the programs you have and make it financially able for the students of the area to attend State Fair,” he said. “You want to do as much as you can for the least expense. You want to try to expand the programs as much as you can and build on the ones you have — we’ve got some great programs. … Also to make State Fair as economically feasible as possible. … It’s a great opportunity to attend post-high school education for a very economical cost.”
While Hammond noted expanding programs as something SFCC needs to address, he also said the school has to look at if it is financially feasible to do so as a way to address declining enrollment.
“You have to get those people in the area to attend State Fair,” he said. “Are we going to have to present our programs more, be able to go out and increase the number of programs we offer, which of course increases cost, so is it cost effective to increase the number of programs we have. … We need to expand the area; I don’t think we can solely rely on Benton and Pettis students.”
Like many other SFCC candidates, Hammond did not offer a specific stance when it comes to a possible tax increase to fund a proposed technology center.
“I’m not a big person for tax increases by any means, but I’m OK with spending the money if there’s a good benefit from it,” he said. “I think they want to try to benefit a lot of people with this proposal. If you get a benefit from it then I think it’s a great opportunity. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the proposal at this time … To say right now I’m for or against it, I need to know a little more about it before I get too much involved with it.”
Hammond said his goals include keeping costs in line for students, attracting more students to the college, enhancing current programs and possibly adding more programs to draw more students.
“I’ve got a strong educational background, knowledgeable, a good interest in the college being a former student and the concern for the college itself,” he said of why citizens should vote for him.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.