WEST BURLINGTON — The Southeastern Community College Board of Trustees on Monday approved a succession plan in the event of a board vacancy, though not all trustees were in agreement on the matter. 

The board first discussed putting in place a succession plan during its retreat last month, concerned for the future of the board and college should one of them no longer be able to serve.

During the retreat, trustee Jeff Heland suggested each trustee select a few people from the districts they represent who they think would be a good fit for the position, pointing to lack of public interest in taking a seat on the board. He said having willing people in mind would help ensure the spot gets filled. The rest of the board agreed it was a good idea. As Heland pointed out, the college cannot pay any bills without a full board. 

He took issue with the first reading of the new policy, Policy 214, however, after trustee Moudy Nabulsi, who attended via teleconference, seconded a motion put forth by vice chairwoman Janet Fife-LaFrenz to forgo the second and third readings and approve the policy as is. 

According to the policy, "applications for an open board position will be publicized through the local media in the Merged Area XVI."

Heland suggested the work "will" be changed to "may," saying it was not what had been discussed at the retreat.

"If it's not in state code, why would we want to tie a future board's hands?" he asked. "The danger is... that someone comes up who isn't a friend to public education and community colleges, so you do some things in advance. That was my thinking in our discussion."

Chairwoman Chris Prellwitz said it would be beneficial to have a larger applicant pool from which to choose. 

“The more applicants you have, the better,” she said. 

Trustee Lanny Hillyard pointed out the board still would make the final decision, after having interviewed all applicants. The appointee also would have to be approved by the full board via roll call vote at a special meeting before the next regular meeting. 

"We wouldn't be giving any of that authority up. It just makes it more public that the position is open so you're not surprising anyone," Hillyard said, though he said he had not yet approached anyone about it. 

Fife-LaFrenz, Prellwitz, Nabulsi and Hillyard spoke in favor of conducting the process with transparency. 

Heland said his plan had been to approach possible appointees through positions in the community. When a person left that position, he would present the same idea to the person who filled it. 

"Those were going to be the people I suggested and then I would trust my colleagues to put those people in the position for the remainder of my career," Heland said. 

Prellwitz said each of the board members still could suggest possible replacements, but pointed out she wouldn't have run for a spot on the board had it not been publicized because she didn't want to step on anyone's toes. 

She also said the board could change significantly six years from now and questioned whether its members would stick with the same practice. 

After further discussion, the board voted 4 to 1 in favor of the policy.