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A student walks past the student enrollment center at Chattanooga State Technical Community College in this Feb. 5, 2014, photo.

The search committee charged with selecting the new president of Chattanooga State Community College convened for the first time Tuesday.

The first step to finding a successor for Dr. Jim Catanzaro -- Chattanooga State's longtime president who retired in December amid controversy -- began with a forum moderated by Dr. Betty Asher, a partner with Greenwood/Asher & Associates Inc., a Florida-based executive search firm hired by the Tennessee Board of Regents to help with the process.

Many were interested in the proceedings, with more than 70 faculty, staff and students from the college in attendance. Several took to the microphone to share the qualities they wished to see in the school's new leader.

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"I want a president that is committed to our mission as a community college, which is teaching general education to students," said Joel Henderson, head of the college's English Department.

"I want to actually see my president," physics professor Dr. Michael Pugh said, a reference to a disconnect he felt from Catanzaro during the former president's time at Chattanooga State. "The more my president approaches me, the more approachable my president is."

"I want a president who makes strong relationships with community businesses and industries," said Debbie Adams, vice president of student affairs. "We depend on the community to hire our students."

Other concerns raised were maintaining high standards for students, supporting the two high schools on Chattanooga State's campus, encouraging inter-departmental collaboration, and improving the pathway between two- and four-year colleges.

The common thread among everyone in attendance, though, was transparency.

"The faculty wants a leader that will communicate, a leader that encourages two-way conversations," said Dr. Kenneth Goldsmith, president of the Faculty Senate. "I'd love to have a leader that I see walking around, saying 'Hi, how are you doing?'"

Goldsmith said transparency would go a long way toward restoring the trust that was lost at the end of Catanzaro's presidency.

"If we can get someone that can establish a culture of trust, that's a strong supporter of academics and open communication, that's a home run," Goldsmith said.

After the forum, the search committee, which is made up of Tennessee Board of Regents members, Chattanooga State faculty, student, staff and alumni representatives, and community leaders, convened to discuss their duties. Tom Griscom, a board of regents member and chairman of the search committee, explained that the panel's role is to come up with three to five names to recommend to Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan.

Morgan will make a selection and submit that candidate to the board of regents for final approval.

While most of the candidates are expected to be fielded from advertisements and the recruitment efforts of Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Griscom encouraged the committee members to reach out to any good candidates of whom they know. Morgan echoed Griscom, and added an admonition.

"Be open to all candidates who come forward, and please take this seriously," he said. "This is the most important thing the board does."

Subsequent meetings of the search panel will be closed to the public until it announces its candidates some time in May.

Contact staff writer Will Healey at whealey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

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