Presidential finalist profile: Eloy Oakley—the environmentalist

James Crosby

Erick Pirayesh, Staff Writer

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, 46, joined the Long Beach Community College district in 2002 serving as the assistant superintendent/executive vice president of administrative services. He went on to be appointed superintendent-president in 2007.

Oakley says that in many ways Santa Barbara City College and LBCC can be very similar but that Santa Barbara offers some “unique qualities.”

“I think [City College] has some very innovative faculty, I also think the community is very much interested in helping it become one of the top City College’s in the nation,” Oakley said.

“Certainly I would be remiss to say that it’s a beautiful campus and beautiful community.”

Oakley knows that there are many issues facing community colleges but he pointed out that City College has a few unique issues of it’s own.

“Specifically for Santa Barbara, I would say the number one issue is mending the riffs that occurred at the campus and in the community,” he said. “The aftermath of Dr. Serbans departure, the board election, and the accreditation issue.

“I think all those things are connected and in order for [City College] to move forward and be that flagship community college it deserves to be, I think those things need to be dealt with.”

He specified that, if elected, it’s the superintendent-president’s job to be the “face of Santa Barbara City College,” and the “connection point between the board of trustees, the faculty, the staff, the students, and the community.”

“The primary job is to bring those interests together, to meld them together, in a way that moves the college forward.”

Having partnered with numerous local organizations in his time in Long Beach, Oakley understands that it’s important to build trust and set up transparent processes with all those involved.

“The way you build trust is to set up processes that include various constituencies on campus to participate in the governance process,” he said. “The best decisions I can make come from the people who are affected most by those decisions.”

Oakley also professes to be very familiar with the accreditation commission and is well aware of the recent warning that was received by the City College Board of Trustees. While he says it’s “never fun to be put on warning,” he believes that the College can use the experience as a step in the right direction.

“If the Board is serious about dealing with those issues, and I’m sure they are, it can be dealt with pretty quickly and pretty effectively and make the College a better place in the end,” he said. “ I’m fully confident that if I became president those issues would be resolved.”

Oakley says he understands that being president of a Community College entails making cuts to facilitate the decreasing budget, but that one must not look at it “through a vacuum.”

“I expect that the college will set up processes to begin to prioritize, not only how to make reductions, but if there’s new money, how to add funds,” he said. “The resources that are scarce can be put to the greatest need for the students.”

Oakley also talked about the high percentage of international students at City College, and maintained it’s important to find a balance between the outreach for more and serving the best interests of the local community.

“The college can not be so focused on recruiting international students that it loses sight of the fact that local students might not be getting served,” he said. “While on top of that, also have a nice healthy international program.”

Oakley himself is a former Community College student. After serving four years in the military he attended Golden West College in Huntington Beach. He said he found himself to being slightly lost after leaving the military and that Golden West helped put him on the right track.

“Golden West helped me turn it around,” he said. “The community college experience is very near and dear to my heart.”

After Golden West, Oakley transferred to the University of California Irvine where he received his bachelor’s degree in environmental analysis and design, and a master’s degree in business administration.

Oakley also has a twitter account and is a self-proclaimed “news and political junky.”

“Politics is not only something I engage in for a living, but also something I spend my fair time doing,” he said.

Oakley has four children and two grandchildren, and is currently in the middle of a divorce. He is a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

He says his favorite quote and model to live by is “always moving forward.”