Fort Lewis College, which has pushed for more local representation on its Board of Trustees, announced Friday it has tapped a Durangoan to join the board and is considering adding two other positions.
One spot on the board would likely be reserved for a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe, FLC President Tom Stritikus said, to better represent its student body. About 40% of students at FLC are Native American.
“That will be an exciting opportunity given our working role with Native American communities,” he said.
As it stands, FLC’s Board of Trustees consists of seven members, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.
Stritikus said most colleges in Colorado have a nine-member board, but FLC is the only one that caps the number of local people who can serve at two.
As a result, FLC officials support House Bill 20-1108 – sponsored by State Rep. Barbara McLachlan – which would increase the board to nine-members and allow for at least two people from Southwest Colorado.
Attempts Friday to reach McLachlan were not successful.
Stritikus said the bill, which FLC will support in testimony next week, would bring the college in alignment with other college boards and benefit education in Southwest Colorado.
“One of our strategic priorities is to be the first destination, regional stop for education needs,” he said. “So, having people with local connections helps leverage that.”
Former Colorado Rep. Ellen Roberts is one of the two current board members from Southwest Colorado.
The term of Steve Short, retired president/CEO of First National Bank of Durango, expired Dec. 31. On Friday, it was announced Gov. Jared Polis appointed Meredith Mapel, a Durango native and president/CEO of Durango Coca-Cola, to the board.
The Colorado Senate must vote to confirm Mapel’s appointment, which is expected to take place during the 2020 legislative session.
Mapel has worked for Durango Coca-Cola for 20 years and has served as its president since 2016. The third-generation, family-owned business has been operated by her family for more than 80 years, according to a statement from FLC.
“It (Fort Lewis College) is a valuable asset,” Mapel told The Durango Herald about why she wanted to serve on the board. “It’s very, very important for the health of our community.”
Mapel said she hopes to bring her business acumen to help guide FLC through several of its challenges, which include increasing enrollment and improving retention and operating efficiencies.
“This is a tough time for higher education,” Mapel said. “Hopefully, my local business background will bring a good perspective for the board.”
Roberts said Friday the current board has strong members from the Denver area, but FLC being in a rural and remote location presents unique challenges for an educational institute, so it’s important the surrounding communities feel like they are plugged into FLC’s success.
“That becomes more magnified when we have more people from this area who have the opportunity to apply,” she said. “We have a really strong board, but I also think more local representation will help us in a lot of ways and make the board even better than it is today.”
firstname.lastname@example.orgAn earlier version of this story misspelled Meredith Mapel’s last name.