Valdez starts planning move to Riverton and CWC helm

May 1, 2014 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Central Wyoming College president-elect Cristobal Valdez informed his current staff Wednesday that he will be moving to Riverton this summer.

He was hired Tuesday to replace CWC president Jo Anne McFarland, who will retire in July after 25 years on the job. Valdez's first day in the new position is July 14. He serves currently as president at Edison Community College in Piqua, Ohio.

"I broke the news this morning via e-mail to faculty and staff," Valdez said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Everyone knew I was a finalist, but they didn't know what the final outcome would be."

He plans to help the Edison governing board with the transition while he prepares to move his family to Riverton. The Valdez clan includes wife Robin and children Antonio, 18, Ali, 15, Aaron, 12, and Andi, 9.

"As a family we approach this with excitement and anxiety," Valdez said. "It's always a challenge to move a family and integrate into the schools and the community. ... So it's very exciting for us, but we still are picking up our family and moving across the country."

Heading west

Valdez, 47, and his wife are from Montana, and during public interviews last month Valdez said he was looking forward to moving back west.

"Certainly one of the attractions for us about CWC initially as that it's close to home," Valdez said Wednesday. "It gets us closer to relatives, friends, my mother, my wife's parents. ... It has the potential of being somewhere we can be until we retire."

The family may visit Riverton before Valdez starts work in July. When they move to town, Valdez said Antonio likely will enroll at CWC.

"He's very interested in theater, music, those kinds of things," Valdez said. "There are good academic opportunities for him."

The 18-year-old also is a soccer player and has competed in track and tennis.

Ali is a basketball player, Valdez said, and Aaron plays football and baseball. The girls also swim, and Valdez said his kids participate in show choirs.

Actions over words

During his public interview last month, Valdez said he would spend time as president learning about the school's culture, in part by scheduling one-on-one meetings with every member of the staff. On Wednesday he said he plans to follow through with that pledge.

"It's a long process, but I think it's the right process," he said. "There are varying perspectives and varying thoughts about what's going well, maybe what can be improved. I think it's important to hear all of those voices."

Several people at CWC already have reached out to him this week, Valdez said, and he spoke with McFarland on the phone Wednesday about his selection as president.

"She's just been very open and very welcoming, so that certainly will make the transition one that's easier," he said.

When asked about his working relationship with fellow presidential finalist Jason Wood, CWC's executive vice president of student and academic services, Valdez said he doesn't anticipate any problems.

"I have seen Jason's professionalism," Valdez said.

During his time visiting CWC, he said he noticed that many staff members are interested in furthering their professional careers.

"Some of those aspirations and goals can be realized internally within the institution, and some are external," he said. "One of my primary responsibilities as president is to support all of those ... professional development goals."

Valdez was selected as one of three finalists by a 19-member screening committee that included board members, college staff, alumni and community members. He participated in public forums and private interviews with trustees April 15-16 in Riverton.

The CWC Board of Trustees announced their decision during a special meeting Tuesday. Valdez agreed to a three-year contract including a $170,500 salary, a $6,000 annual car allowance, a $12,000 annual housing allowance and a $20,000 moving allowance.

Valdez said the contract represents a pay raise for him, but he pointed out that the cost of living is higher in Riverton compared to Piqua.

McFarland's current base salary is $171,969.

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