William Stewart may be the new kid on the block, but he brings almost three decades of community college experience to his new job as an elected official.
Stewart defeated Elizabeth Roach in the race for Southwestern College Governing Board seat No. 1.
“I’m really excited about it,” he said. “I thought I would be more nervous about it, but I’m generally more excited. Virtually everyone I’ve met at SWC I’ve enjoyed, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Stewart said he recognizes the significance of working to solve a crippling budget problem at SWC.
“I’m used to dealing with numbers and dealing with budgets,” he said. “I’d like to be really involved in looking at the details of it to see if we can help SWC. There are things I still want to learn about Southwestern. I think it’s important to try and address the needs of all your students.”
With the passage of Proposition 30 SWC avoided drastic trigger mid-year cuts, but still has a $5.8 million gap to fill.
“The good news about it passing is that it’s not going to be a bloodbath,” he said. “The bad news is there might still be a little more trimming. Southwestern College has been at a point of needing to retreat and retrench because of the economics.”
Stewart said looking at other places that can handle hurtful cuts, instead of classes, would better serve the students. He said he likes to dig into numbers and analyze them. Looking at the budget and seeing real numbers will give him a better sense of where he can utilize this talent, he said.
“I’m familiar with the way the budget system works and so that’s why I’m really looking forward to see if I can help,” he said. “I really see it as, the budget can most effectively be done if it’s done collaboratively. I think that can be done here because the morale is still strong enough.”
Aside from the budget crisis, Stewart said he wants to work on making the honors programs at the college more successful. He also wants to see higher transfer rates.
He said he has four years of hard work ahead of him.
“By the end of my term, Southwestern is really going to be working on its growth plans,” said Stewart. “I think it’s going to be looking at how we best serve our students both in terms of the vocational students and their goals and the students that are going on to transfer to institutions.”
Stewart said Southwestern’s controversial past should not overshadow the strengths of the college. He said the college now has a strong board and the college’s problems are largely in the past.
“Now it’s about working on this new future that Southwestern really has in store for it,” he said. “Really letting the community know that Southwestern is a genuine and significant asset. It has a lot to offer to the community.”
Stewart said he admires working together as a community to solve issues.
“I’m really excited about that aspect of it because the faculty, the staff, the administration and people seem ready to work together,” said Stewart. “It’s easy to work together when it’s working towards growth. I think there’s a lot of promise coming up.”