By NATALIE WRIGHT
Three Washtenaw trustees will reach the end of their terms this winter, and two of them, Board Chair Anne Williams and Vice Chair Patrick McLean, are not seeking reelection.
Mark Freeman, secretary of the board, is the only incumbent who has filed to run. He will face off against seven other candidates on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The space on the board is more hotly contested this year than it’s been in decades – and possibly ever. Eight candidates have filed to run for three seats – more than have run in any election since 1980 – as far back as digital records go.
The roster shows that faculty and students are eager to secure a voice on the board amid ongoing conflict between the faculty and the administration.
Two former faculty members, three former students, and two current students have all thrown their hats in the ring. The list also includes a former Ann Arbor city councilman and state senator.
At a trustees meeting on July 22, the same day as the deadline for candidates to file, McLean explained his decision not to run.
“I’m not interested in serving just for the sake of serving,” McLean said. “If I’m going to serve well, I need to be able to give my all to the college … and I’ve made a decision that I simply don’t have that ability for the next couple years.”
McLean added that his support for the college is “unwavering” and that he will look for other ways to support the college in the future.
Williams did not comment on her decision not to run.
Eric Borregard, of Dexter, wants to improve and reform the educational system, starting with Washtenaw Community College, he said.
“The school’s got no money and the people at the top are feeding their face,” Borregard said, “just like the rest of the political system, just like the governor.”
Borregard has been an advocate for education reform since 1994 and has run for the state Board of Education as a reform candidate, the state Senate as a Green Party candidate, and for the board of regents at the University of Michigan.
Borregard’s plan of educational reform is one that will look out for the students, he said.
“No one’s looking out for the kids, for bettering these kids’ lives,” Borregard said. “Half of the kids are unemployed when they graduate, so obviously something is broken.”
In Borregard’s written platform he says he wants to train students for work in the hemp industry and wants WCC to apply for a license to grow and research hemp.
“The Michigan legislature has already approved a two-year research project at MSU,” Borregard said in his written platform. “There is no reason why WCC can’t be applying for a similar license.”
Borregard says that “unlike the other candidates” he is planning on doing more than furthering his career and keeping the status quo if he is elected as a trustee for WCC. He wants serious reform.
~ Natalie Wright and James Saoud
William Campbell is running for Washtenaw Community College trustee for the second time. When he ran in 2010, he lost out to Pam Horizsny and Stephen Gill.
“The two of them ganged up and spent nearly $10,000 to beat me,” Campbell said. He ended up filing a recall petition against Horizsny that was eventually dropped.
Now Campbell, a former WCC physics instructor, is running on the same platform as he did four years ago. He thinks the board of trustees should be more involved in the details of the education being provided at the college.
“You have two jobs – education and money,” Campbell said of the trustees, “and they’re only watching the money.”
Overall, Campbell believes that power in the school is not balanced as it should be.
“The president works for the board,” Campbell said. “They don’t work for her. The board works for the people.
“It’s like the tail is wagging the dog,” he added. “They have the relationship skewed, and they also have, as incumbents, they have an incredible power to maintain the status quo and run things however they want.”
Campbell also owns a company he founded that does thermographic imaging and works in energy conservation.
~ Natalie Wright
While teaching at Cooley Law School in 1993, Tony Derenzinski undertook a job that no other candidate can claim to have done.
“There was a position for an adviser to the parliament of Ukraine to create a constitution,” Derenzinski said.
So he took the job and helped fashion what he described as “new institutions that could work for an old country.”
However, Derenzinski’s experience doesn’t end there. He served as a Michigan State senator from 1975-1978, was on Eastern Michigan University’s board of regents from 1983-1996 and served on the Ann Arbor City Council from 2008-2012.
“While serving as a state senator, there were no four-year institutions in my district, but there was West Shore Community College and Muskegon Community College,” Derenzinski said. “I have a very strong faith in the good that community colleges can do, and WCC is one of the best in the state.”
Aside from his work in politics and higher education, Derenzinski served in the Navy for four years as a Judge Advocate General officer and a military judge in Vietnam.
Retired from active practice of law, 72-year-old Derenzinski serves as vice-chair for the Michigan Law Revision Commission, a secretary of the Arbor Hospice Foundation and a member of the board of directors for the Main Street Area Association.
~ By M.M. Donaldson and James Saoud
When asked the question “what do you do?” David DeVarti responded, “I am more than just a job,”
DeVarti, 62, of Ann Arbor, who works in property management and re-development while taking liberal arts courses at Washtenaw Community College, served on the Ann Arbor City Council in the mid-1980s, as well as serving on the planning commission for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.
DeVarti is also responsible for starting local Ann Arbor publication “Current” magazine.
While a single job title may be impossible for DeVarti to pin down, he says his business card has his name with the all-embracing job title “Creative Person.”
“I have attended art classes for the last two years at WCC and have gotten to know the students,” DeVarti said, “I see the many angles that the college offers to the community.”
While attending WCC, DeVarti has seen a “breakdown in trust” between the college’s faculty and administration.
“It is a vital time for the college and I want to make sure it continues to provide the tremendous service to the community,” DeVarti said.
While DeVarti is ready to bring his political experience and listening skills to the leadership of WCC, he acknowledges that he cannot fix the college’s conflict himself.
“One person isn’t going to make a difference,” he said. “It will be the whole board.”
~ James Saoud and M.M. Donaldson
Christina Fleming, of Dexter, is a 38-year-old Washtenaw Community College student who wants to bring a technological edge to WCC’s Board of Trustees.
“I have a lot of good work experience in technology, and I think one of the things lacking in these elected positions is that people don’t use technology,” Fleming said, adding that many people in elected positions allow for vague answers in projects and reports relating to technology. “Since they don’t understand it, they just accept that,” she said.
Fleming worked as a technology professional for more than 17 years, and has experience in teaching adult education. She graduated from the University of Michigan with dual bachelor’s degrees in sociology and archaeology.
As the mother of an autistic daughter, Fleming is sensitive to the needs of students, especially special needs students, she said.
“You need to think about the students who aren’t able to speak for themselves,” Fleming said, “and I’ve always been one to stick up for the underdog.”
Her experience as a WCC student will be a valuable addition to the board, she said. She can bring a new perspective to issues that the current board members might not consider, she said, because it’s been so long since they were in a classroom.
~ Natalie Wright and James Saoud
Editor’s note: While working on her Internet Professional degree, Fleming is serving as online editor for The Washtenaw Voice.
Mark Freeman has served on the Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees for six years, and has served as board secretary since 2011.
Freeman made a name for himself after two years on the board, by publicly criticizing the decision of his fellow trustees and administrators to spend more than $4,000 on a single dinner at their annual spring retreat.
“I don’t think it’s justified. I didn’t go. I didn’t go because I assumed it was being paid by individuals,” Freeman told The Voice. “I went home, and I didn’t get a room either.”
While others defended the dinner, saying it was a miniscule part of the college’s budget, Freeman disagreed.
“Compare it to a student’s education. You could almost get an associate’s with that money. That money could have changed someone’s life.”
Since, Freeman has continued to distinguish himself on the board. At a trustees meeting this May, in which each trustee addressed an avalanche of faculty complaints, Freeman was the only one to acknowledge that the trustees might learn something from the complaints.
Freeman is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and still attends classes at WCC. He also runs a small delivery business, according to the trustees website.
Several attempts to reach Freeman for comment were unsuccessful.
~ Natalie Wright
Ruth Hatcher has served many roles at Washtenaw Community College – teacher, tutor, union president, interim dean and interim vice president. She has been considering trying to take on the role of trustee since she retired from teaching in 2010.
Hatcher, 66, taught English at WCC for 30 years. Her husband also taught at the college and her son teaches math here now.
“It’s like home,” Hatcher said of the college. “So you’ve gotta give back.”
The Ann Arbor resident has also served on the Greenhills school board, and the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County.
Hatcher hopes to bring balance to the board of trustees, she said, by giving more voice to the faculty and students.
“A full-time teacher here sees 1,000 students a week,” she said. “There’s an expertise there that’s helpful — not adversarial, but insightful and helpful.”
But Hatcher was quick to say that despite what some might think, she is not looking to join the board just to give the faculty a seat at the table. She emphasized that her focus as a trustee would be listening to every side of every story.
~ Natalie Wright
Alex Milshteyn, of Ann Arbor, has been planning to run for Washtenaw Community College’s Board of Trustees since 2010, and this year he will take that leap.
“I know that there’s a lot of unrest on campus,” Milshteyn said, “I want to help that unrest to make sure that WCC comes back to where it was when I was there.”
After graduating from both WCC and Washtenaw Technical Middle College in 2001, with an associates in applied sciences, Milshteyn went to Eastern Michigan University, where he graduated in 2006 with a degree in business administration.
He has been a member of the WTMC Board since he graduated from EMU and has been heavily involved with the college for the last couple of years.
In his work selling real estate in Ann Arbor, Milshteyn said, he has become a good mediator when it comes to resolving uneasy situations. He is a member of the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors and has served as treasurer and president. He also serves on the board of directors for the Michigan Association of Realtors.
“I will bring a different approach with technology, bring a totally different angle,” Milshteyn said. “And I have a very different outlook on things since I was just in the classroom a few years ago.”
~ Natalie Wright and James Saoud