Election 2012 – William “Bud” McLeroy interview

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Photo by Serina Duarte

William “Bud” McLeroy grew up in Otay Mesa and calls South Bay his home. A full-time San Diego firefighter for 22 years, he is a six-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran with 30 years service in the Army Reserves. He is a commandant (superintendent) of the 80th Training Command. He owns a small business that manufactures surfboards and is in the process of opening a Hawaiian food restaurant.

McLeroy, running for Seat 3, said he spent his entire life in service and possesses the experience, expertise and heartfelt desire to serve the college and his community.

A self-described family man with four children, McLeroy said serving SWC is important to him because he and some of his children attended the college. He said he considers it a great asset to the South Bay. Students would be his top priority, he said.

“No matter who you are, your income level, you can always count on Southwestern to give you the chance to better yourself,” he said. “In the past two years, I don’t think the college itself has been running in an organized fashion that meets its potential. Recently it has come under investigation through the legal system as far as corruption. It is being able to do the right thing for the people in the community where I grew up in.”

Former SWC administrators and board members Nick Alioto, Greg Sandoval, John Wilson, Yolanda Salcido and current employee Arlie Ricasa have been charged with felonies by the San Diego County District Attorney. Former superintendent Raj K. Chopra has fled prosecution. All except Ricasa resigned from SWC following the 2010 governing board election. Humberto Peraza, who currently holds trustee seat #3, was appointed in August 2011, after the district attorney indictments and the mass resignations.

McLeroy said he could not turn his back to the problems he saw with the college because if he did he would be turning his back on his community.

“They are in trouble,” he said. “If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be a fireman. I wouldn’t be in the military. I want to help this community and this school as much as I can. It comes from the bottom of my heart. It is not a political move. The challenges that I see, the state has cut the funding for colleges and universities. But the colleges and the universities still want to run on the same money they did before. In order to cut so that it doesn’t affect the outcome of the students we have to know how to actually place ourselves in the position to do better.”

McLeroy said he was wounded in Iraq in 1993. After rehab he went back into the reserves. For the next three years he focused to make sure that every soldier under his command was well trained.

“I had to because upon graduation day the next year they would all be deployed to a combat zone,” he said. “I gave them the upmost in respect and the upmost in knowledge so they could survive.”

Promoted to commandant after three years, he said he retained his personal commitment to all students and that he will carry this philosophy as a college board member.

“When it comes to why I am best for the job here, I’ve done this. I have a proven track record,” he said. “Failure is not an option in my school. I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want you to give up and I don’t want you to fail.”

McLeroy lost a leg in 1993. He became the first one-legged firefighter and the first amputee service member. He said he had to set an example for his family and considers Southwestern as a part of that family.

“I can come here, evaluate and make it better so students can get a better education,” he said. “If we spend money foolishly that money can’t go to the kids. I will give every ounce of energy in my body to make sure students succeed. I have to make my school survive over the incompetence that has been here.”

McLeroy said he understands that not everyone at the college is corrupt, but said the college needs to rethink expenditures and utilize the potential of the satellite campuses.

“I learned that as a teacher, as a department head and as an administrator in the military,” he said. “I feel that I can do the job. I have done it. I am not the guy coming in that doesn’t know about the school and I am not the guy coming in that doesn’t know what is involved. I am the guy that has done it and through the grace of God has made things happen and said let’s do it here.”

McLeroy said if Proposition 30 fails everything at SWC is vulnerable and the college will be hit hard. He said it is important that whomever is elected knows how to balance a budget and understands the education system and management.

“Two years ago when I sat down in debates, I said it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “Now we are at the governor’s bill that says we have to pay taxes. If you look at all the bills that have wanted to raise taxes, people say no. The governor passed a budget stating that this bill would pass. That was wrong. I was able to raise the GPA and lower the cost of business.”

He said holding people accountable is essential and though it appears that the college is coming out of scandal, it is not.

“They are still investigating findings there,” he said. “It is easy to be corrupt when you are doing it for the wrong reason.”

He said it is not enough to “squeeze by” accreditation status and that he has the experience to deal with accreditation issues. In his experience, he said, he took his school from barely passing by to full accreditation with a Center of Excellence status.

“Being a board member, you are a leader,” he said. “We need to get away from the corruption part and actually get back into the education part. People won’t remember us for the education, they will remember us for the corruption. Part of changing that is changing the people that are in power. We just need to make a clean break. We need to build our reputation up.”

McLeroy said freedom of speech and the press are rights of the American people, and that it is important that people receive unbiased information.

“I love freedom of speech, freedom of the press and I love freedom,” he said. “If I didn’t I would have never gone to war. Journalists can be the most fantastic journalist in the world if they learn to eliminate the emotional. I know in the past about people wanting to stifle the speech here. You can’t stifle speech. Just like me if I would have skewed my instruction one way or another, I would have had a student die.”

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