Government / Politics

Gavilan College president announces retirement plans

Steve Kinsella to end his 13-year tenure by June of 2016

Gavilan College President Steve Kinsella announced by email his intention to retire around June 30, 2016, ending what has been a 13-year tenure with the Gilroy-based school that operates a satellite campus in downtown Hollister and has plans to build a larger campus in San Benito County.

In an email on Friday, Oct. 16, Kinsella noted that since the board recently reached a decision on new electoral districts for board members elected in 2016 and beyond "now they will turn their attention to hiring my replacement." The email was shared with BenitoLink and other local media by Board President Walt Glines.

Kinsella said he "will remain flexible in the departure date in order to provide the Board ample time to complete the hiring process."

Glines, who called Kinsella's announcement "not a real surprise," told BenitoLink that he expects the board to "get together no later than November to decide on next steps" in finding a replacement for the college president. He said that he and fellow Trustee Lois Locci, one of the San Benito County representatives on the Gavilan board, recently returned from a conference that included study sessions on hiring a new president.

Trustees Mark Dover and Laura Perry have taken part in at least one presidential search process for the college, Glines noted, adding that he was a community representative on the committee that interviewed the dozen or so candidates who made it through the initial screening by an outside consulting firm prior to Kinsella's hiring.

Glines said Kinsella has "given hints for the past year or so" that he may be retiring. "We have several search avenue options available but don't want to get into too much detail at this time," Glines told BenitoLink.

He lauded Kinsella's "almost unique skill set for a community college president," such as knowing the ins and outs of budgeting as well as accreditation — the process by which colleges get evaluated. Kinsella, Glines said, taught college accounting and related classes over the years and is "well respected in his roles by (community college) presidents and chancellors throughout the state."

During Kinsella's tenure, which included shepherding the school through a recession, "we did not lay off anyone, in contrast to government agencies throughout the state," Glines said, adding that the school has "almost fully-funded pension and health benefits accounts retirees" and the school has added full-time faculty members for the current fiscal year.

He also noted that voters approved a bond measure during Kinsella's tenure, providing money for facilities upgrades on the Gilroy campus as well as the purchase of sites for eventual, separate campuses in San Benito County and the Coyote Valley. While a groundbreaking on the latter campus is scheduled for Dec. 4 of this year, plans for the "Fairview Corners" campus across Airline Highway from the Ridgemark Golf and Country Club remain on hold pending environmental issues related to habitat protection, Glines said.

"We're not going to be able to replace Dr. Kinsella," Glines said, "but I am confident we will hire someone who has an outstanding skill set as Gavilan continues to move forward."

Locci, who is in her first term on the Gavilan College Board of Trustees, told BenitoLink that she is "confident" that a search for Kinsella's replacement "will involve community input on the most desirable qualities of a new chief executive officer." The search for Gavilan's next president will be "a serious challenge" for the school, as "there are too many colleges searching for CEOs from an ever-decreasing pool of potential candidates," she said. 

The search for a president "is considered a board's most critical task," said Locci, who is a also a member of the BenitoLink Advisory Board. "For this reason, the Gavilan trustees will devote considerable energy to organizing and executing the steps that lead to a successful outcome."

Kinsella's 13-year tenure is above the norm, according to Locci, who said the national average in that position is four to six years. That longevity, combined with "a productive working relationship with the board," added to his effectiveness, Locci said. "Compared to so many other campuses, Gavilan enjoys engaged faculty, staff and students and increased accountability. And while no one succeeds alone, for many aspects of Gavilan's current strong position, Dr. Kinsella can take credit."

Adam Breen

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.