Eight candidates are vying for three seats on the Illinois Central College board. ICC’s district covers all or parts of ten counties. Though the tri-county area makes up most of the district, candidates’ names will appear on ballots in each county.
They’ll replace outgoing board members Don Brennan, Sue Yoder-Portscheller, and Doug Stewart, who is filling the last six months on the term of the late James Polk.
Winners of the April 4 election will begin six-year terms in a period often described as unprecedented in the history of Illinois higher education. They’ll become part of a seven-member board charged with guiding the community college as it moves to stem declining enrollments, enhance relationships with high schools and employers and maintain stable finances in the midst of steadily diminishing state funding.
The candidates and their key issues:
Carl Cannon, 55, of Peoria is best known as founder of ELITE, an award-winning youth development program that has a partnership between area school districts and Peoria Park District. He is supervisor of community outreach at the park district, vice chairman of the Peoria Housing Authority board, and a member of the Don’t Shoot Executive Governance Board. With declines in state funding, he says ICC has to look for “innovative and nimble” approaches to increase financial aid and, subsequently, increase enrollment. He also wants to assure diversity in the administrative leadership and strong partnerships between ICC and area school districts.
Angelito “Lee” Capati, is a small business owner who calls ICC the springboard to his master’s degree in business administration. Capati, 65, of Peoria owns and operates several companies, including AC Gentrol, a manufacturing company that does business internationally. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he has volunteered with the Civil Air Patrol, Court-Appointed Special Advocates for neglected and abused children, and the Peoria Zoning Board of Appeals. He wants to be part of ICC’s continued success. Active in the area’s Filipino-American community, he wants to make sure all residents throughout the district, including minorities, are represented.
Kelly Daniels has varied experiences in academia, including as adjunct faculty in ICC’s English department. Currently an instructional designer at Caterpillar Inc., she creates technical online and instructor-led learning materials. She would like to see ICC expand its use of eLearning tools and continue re-examining its student recruitment strategies to deal with declining enrollment and a workforce skills gap. Daniels, 39, of Peoria attended ICC and has worked as assistant to the vice president of advancement at the University of Memphis and served as student body president at her alma mater, Western Illinois University.
Paula Davis’s 31-year career at Pekin Community High School culminated in her term as superintendent from 2005 to 2013. She then began working with Peoria Pathways to Prosperity, a broad collaboration of ICC, Peoria Public Schools and business and political leaders. Davis, 62, of Groveland says the goals of the Pathways network mesh with ICC’s goals of increasing enrollment and narrowing the workforce skills gap. She wants to make sure ICC prioritizes spending and students remain the college’s main focus. She also wants to help families understand ICC’s value in reducing student loan debt.
Brett Fugate ran unsuccessfully for mayor of East Peoria in 2015 at the age of 42. He is a musician with a master’s degree in biology from Chicago State University and founder and owner of Fugate Drums, which produces patented drums and other instruments. He also teaches at Prairie State College, a community college in Chicago Heights. Fugate wants ICC to prioritize hiring residents of the community college district and cut “low-hanging fruit” from the budget because of declining state funding.
Ronda Guyton, 44, of Peoria says she understands the needs of ICC’s non-traditional students because she was one. She also completed her bachelor’s degree on ICC’s campus, through the University of Illinois-Springfield. A Peoria County deputy sheriff of 23 years, Guyton has also used her role as a breast cancer survivor to promote mammogram awareness, volunteering with the Susan G. Komen Memorial Race for the Cure. A member of the UIS alumni advisory board, she wants to increase alumni participation, along with their donations to ICC. She would also like to see increases in completion rates and close the workforce skills gap.
If successful, Patti Polk would follow her late husband, James, on the board. She is a retired Ameritech executive who currently works as volunteer coordinator Harbor Light Hospice. She is national president of Church Women United and has been active in service organizations. She also attended Illinois Central College. Polk, of Peoria, would advocate for keeping tuition affordable, improving community outreach to students in all areas, and continuing the college’s work on a five-year strategic plan.
Rachel Reliford says her experience in the health care field would be an asset on the board. She is currently a senior physician recruiter at OSF HealthCare. Reliford, 33, of Peoria also attended ICC and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UIS. She believes ICC can reverse declining enrollment trends by focusing on occupational programs, particularly in health care where the demand for skilled workers remains strong. She is interested in avenues to make the college accessible for non-traditional students and the long-term sustainability of ICC’s Pekin campus.
Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.