Almost 14 months have passed since James Klauber departed as Calhoun Community College president and Joe Burke became acting president, but a search hasn’t started for the school's sixth permanent president.
Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker indicated in a recent email that he’s happy with Burke.
“The students, faculty, staff, and administration at Calhoun Community College are well-served by Dr. Joe Burke's leadership and experience, and the college has continued to thrive during his tenure," Baker wrote. "Significant progress has been made toward placing permanent leadership at each of our ACCS institutions, and our efforts will continue until every college, including Calhoun, has a permanent president.”
ACCS spokeswoman Rachel Adams said it’s noteworthy that Baker has appointed 10 presidents since beginning his tenure as chancellor in 2017.
Burke, who is being paid a base salary of $159,799, plus a 10% supplemental bonus awarded by the chancellor, was previously the vice president and dean of instruction at Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville for 11 years.
Dean of Technologies John Holley described life as “peaceful” around the college under Burke.
“He’s a good guy,” Holley said. “I think he was brought into the college to make the changes that are necessary and then allow the college to operate.”
Klauber resigned from his Calhoun post effective last May to become president at Hagerstown Community College in Maryland. Burke began his duties at Calhoun on May 14, 2018.
Burke said he’s enjoyed his time so far at Calhoun and he’s willing to serve “at the request and pleasure of the chancellor.
“There’s so many good folks here at Calhoun. I’m just trying to help them carry on with the work they’re doing and make their jobs easier. It’s been a really rewarding experience.”
Burke said he’s not surprised that his tenure as acting president is lasting so long.
“I thought it might be six months but, in my mind, I saw a long stay as possible,” Burke said. “I’m here as long as the chancellor is happy with what’s going on.”
Burke can’t make any personnel changes or adjustments or expenditures more than $5,000 without Baker’s approval, but the acting president said the college “is not sitting still. We're making plans and operating as usual.”
For example, he said the college continues to work on a strategic plan.
Burke said construction is moving forward again on the 23,400-square-foot automotive technology center on the site where the Fine Arts Building once sat.
Holley said the project was delayed because the college was waiting on a $1.5 million economic development grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to offset some of the cost of the $7 million facility that’s expected to open in fall 2020.
“The equipment and trailers are on site, so it’s good to see some action there,” Burke said.
Burke is also planning major renovations to the Sparkman building on Calhoun’s Huntsville campus. He said he hopes the project will begin in August or September.
The college has had several retirements among its top brass lately. The most visible was Dean for Institutional Advancement Janet Martin, who has been Calhoun’s spokeswoman and public relations director for 30 years.
Burke said he won’t try to replace Martin immediately. Sherika Attipoe and Wes Torain will split up her duties in the interim, he said.