Former state Sen. Ellen Roberts tapped for Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees

Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017 4:09 PM

Gov. John Hickenlooper has appointed former state Sen. Ellen Roberts to the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees.

“As a community member, I’ve always valued what Fort Lewis gives to our community and the region,” she said Friday.

The lawyer has lived in Durango since 1989, and both her children attended FLC.

Roberts, a former state senator, brings a decade of legislative experience to the job. She will fill John Wells’ seat.

Her appointment must be confirmed by the Senate Education Committee, which could happen in late February, she said.

Once confirmed, she will join Steve Short as one of two residents of Southwest Colorado who must serve on the board. The board consists of seven voting members.

“I think Ellen will bring a lot of very positive strengths to the board,” Short said.

State funding for higher education is always tight, and her experience with the state Legislature will be beneficial as the board plans for the future of the college, he said.

Roberts will join the board as the school prepares for a transition in leadership: FLC President Dene Thomas will retire June 30.

Finding and hiring a replacement is the biggest challenge the board faces going into 2018, Short said. A search committee is narrowing down a large pool of applicants, he said, but the board makes the final hiring decision.

“Ellen, as well as all of the trustees, will be integrally involved in all of that decision-making process,” he said.

FLC also faces declining enrollment, like many schools nationally, and a tight budget, Short said.

“Because of those issues, that’s why we need great people to help guide us,” Short said.

Roberts said while she is not new to the conversations around higher education, she is new to the board and wants to learn more about the college before listing priorities in her new role.

But she considers declining enrollment to be a concern and hopes to support the school in its search for a new president, among other challenges.

mshinn@durangoherald.comThis story has been updated to reflect that both of Roberts’ children attended Fort Lewis College.