by David Safier
We have the rare good fortune of having two good candidates running for the open seat on the Pima Community College governing board: Mark Hanna and Michael Duran. Both would work to steer the college in a positive direction, something it sorely needs given its much-deserved bad press lately and its fight to get off probation so it can maintain its accreditation.
Of the two, Mark Hanna is the better candidate.
Both Hanna and Duran attended PCC, which means that they don't have a helicopter view of the college. They both have a personal understanding of the students and instructors which will inform their decisions. With buildings, budgets, administrators and programs to worry about, it's too easy to forget about the flesh and blood students who are the reason the school is there.
That being said, Hanna has a few things going for him which will make him a more effective board member than Duran. The first is time. Hanna is retired. He was a general manager for Costco who helped open stores around the country and learned what he calls the "management by walking around" style of making his stores successful. Now he has the time to give the complex task of overseeing Pima Community College the careful attention it deserves, especially during this transitional period.
Duran is a vice president at the Tucson Medical Center and already sits on a few nonprofit boards. Because of his many responsibilities, he'll have to budget his time more carefully. Instead of going over the issues with intensity and focus, instead of "walking around" to get a sense of what's happening at PCC on the street level, he'll be more likely to depend on his management skills and experience — and he's got skills and experience, no question — and rely on others to summarize the issues for him.
I saw this in two debate/forum sessions with Hanna and Duran. Both gave good answers, but Hanna had done his homework more thoroughly. He answered questions with specifics, citing relevant facts and figures to inform and illustrate the points he was making. Duran gave respectable answers which were more general and leaned heavily on his past experiences. That is likely an indication of the way the two would handle the board position.
Hanna's other main strength is his recent experience with the high school students at Catalina Magnet High School where he was the school's college counselor. His job was to talk with students and encourage them to seek the type of higher education which best suited their personal needs and academic strengths, then help them with the application and financial aid processes. The students walking into his office were from all over the world, and many were low income. When he sits on the board, Hanna will see their faces and hear their voices. Students will be at the forefront of his decision-making process, especially students for whom a college education will be a life changing experience — for them, their families and their future chldren. He's sure to encourage aggressive outreach to area high schools, which will benefit the students and help PCC pick up its flagging enrollment.
Duran, along with his position as an executive at TMC, is very involved with the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. The SALC is a powerful group with a "What's good for the business community is good for Tucson" focus. True, part of PCC's mission is to train and educate students so they can get skilled jobs in the workforce, but I would be concerned that Duran might see the faces and hear the voices of his business colleagues as he casts his votes. I don't think he would vote against the needs of students, but he could have a tendency to lean toward projects which will benefit his fellow SALC members.