Senate Democratic leader seeks spot as community college president

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr.

CT Mirror

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. will be interviewed this weekend to become the next president of Quinebaug Valley Community College, a public college with campuses in Danielson and Willimantic.

“As I look forward to new challenges after my final term as state senator, I have submitted a letter indicating my interest in the position of president of Quinebaug Valley Community College. It would be an honor to be considered for this position given the importance of QVCC as a community resource and its mission to help students in northeastern Connecticut,” Williams, D-Brooklyn, said in a statement.

The job is highly coveted, with 88 people applying for the top position at the 1,900-student college. It’s unclear how much the next president will make. The previous president, Ross Tomlin, made $174,086 a year.

Several candidates are expected to be interviewed over the weekend by the Presidential Search Committee and a handful of finalists will visit the campus in late April or early May to meet with administrators, students, staff, faculty and community members.

The job description for the presidency reads, “The successful candidate will be a proven leader and a visionary who understands current trends in higher education and can create a collaborative, team approach to strategic planning. A clear understanding of and passion for the philosophy and mission of the community college, with an emphasis on community, will be required of the new President. Successful experience in faculty relations, sound fiscal management, and the ability to work both up and down in a complex system structure will be key.”

Williams, 56, will leave office in early January as the longest-serving leader of the Connecticut Senate. He was first elected to the General Assembly in 1993.

A handful of staff at the campus have expressed concerns to The CT Mirror over Williams’s political connections, his background in academia and whether he is qualified for the position.

A copy of his resume, provided by Williams, shows he earned his law degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law and a journalism bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University.

His relevant experience in higher education include being the chairman of the legislature’s Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee, on the board of the New England Board of Higher Education from 2007 to 2011 and the executive director of Connecticut College’s satellite campus downtown between 1997 and 1999. His publications include a new book he authored on Prudence Crandall’s legacy and opinion pieces in The Hartford Courant.

Williams, also a former radio reporter, has been a full-time legislator in recent years.

Williams may be best remembered for his time in elected office as the catalyst responsible for a stunning vote in 2012 to repeal the death penalty for future crimes. He was also a key state player enacting sweeping campaign finance reform legislation. On his resume, Williams highlights bills he helped craft that help create jobs, stem cell research and affordable housing.

The search committee is tasked with recommending a finalist to the college system’s governing board — the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities’ Board of Regents. The 15-member committee comprises four faculty members, three QVCC staff, one student, state Rep. Mae Flexer (an alumna), two Regents, one central office staff member for the Regents and three members of the school’s philanthropic foundation.

The Regents have also hired a private consulting firm to also sift through the 88 applicants and make a recommendation.

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