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Walters Selected As Interim Vista Head

Friday June 25, 2004

The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees, still reeling from allegations made by outgoing Vista College President John Garmon that he was ousted by a black racial conspiracy, named a district veteran to replace Garmon on an interim basis. 

Judy Walters, the district’s Senior Vice Chancellor of Education Services since 1999 and a finalist for the Vista President job in 2001, will take the reigns of the Berkeley school for the next two years as Vista prepares to move into its new downtown Berkeley campus.  

Vista has secured public bond money to build the $67 million building on Center Street between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street, but staff had expressed concerns that, under Garmon, the school was falling behind on its fundraising drive to raise $2.1 million to properly outfit and staff the complex. 

Garmon argues he had gotten the fundraising effort off to a strong start and that the board’s decision last month not to renew his contract was retribution by the board’s black majority for his proposal to reassign two African American administrators. Although he can’t prove his charges, Garmon said he plans to file a lawsuit against the district. 

Walters, who like Garmon is white, won the board’s unanimous support based, in part, on her involvement in the plans for a new building both during her ten-year stint at California Community Colleges and at Peralta. 

“She knows the building and the city’s role in the building,” said Peralta Trustee Susan Duncan. “We need to have continuity right now. This isn’t the time to have someone brought up to date.” 

Walters, who has worked at state community colleges for over 25 years, beat out Vista Vice President for Instruction Jackie Shadko for the job. Walters said if asked she would “probably” be interested in the permanent position. 

The role of a college president involves heavy community outreach, and Walters said she planned to continue the Friends of Vista fundraising campaign, co-chaired by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. 

“I’m going to work hard to build relationships,” she said. “It’s absolutely critical to have communication with everybody in the city and the district.” 

Inside Vista, Walters acknowledged she will have to heal wounds over Garmon’s controversial firing. 

Faculty members interviewed, many of whom questioned Garmon’s competence as a leader, were quick to voice their support for Walters. They said she has a reputation as a staunch supporter of Vista, which they believe has historically been shortchanged in favor of the district’s three other campuses, Laney College, Merritt College and the College of Alameda. 

“The perception is that she’s fair, she’s efficient, she’s sympathetic to the school and she doesn’t play political games,” said Professor Chuck Wollenberg. 

Joan Berezin, co-chair of the Faculty Senate called Walters “a true leader, who will be a good advocate for the college.” 

However, the school’s classified employees were generally supportive of Garmon, who was said to be more affable with employees than his predecessor Barbara Beno, a reputed taskmaster. 

Beno and Walters are close friends, but Walters said she had her own management style. “I think I’m considered a warm and friendly person,” she said. “I’m very task and goal oriented. Titles are not particularly impressive to me.” 

Garmon praised Walters as a “competent woman,” but wondered how she could get the job three years after being “roundly rejected by the faculty and staff of Vista.” Noting that (like Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris) Walters doesn’t have a doctorate, he labeled her appointment, “part of the continuing dumbing down of the Peralta District.” 

Peralta, which is in the process of trying to devolve power from the district office to the college campuses, is not expected to replace Walters.›