Matthews seeks NIC trustee Seat A

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COEUR d'ALENE - Paul Matthews says there are problems at North Idaho College and he's ready to work on solving them.

Matthews, a Rathdrum architect, is challenging incumbent Judy Meyer for Seat A on the NIC board.

"Fiscal responsibility is needed. We need to stop the mission creep that's stepped in and re-establish transparency and accountability," Matthews said.

The 50-year-old says he would bring to the board a conservative perspective along with skills and experience that will help him resolve issues affecting finance and policy decisions being made at the community college.

Matthews holds a bachelor's degree in architecture from Indiana's Ball State University. He claims extensive project management experience having served as architect on more than 250 building projects, and has been involved in decision-making and policy-setting on multiple boards, both private and public.

Matthews said the "mission creep" he sees at NIC stems from the lack of a clearly-defined mission.

The college's strategic and capital improvement plans are out of sync, he said. For example, Matthews said one document highlights transfer credits as a priority, while the other places "amenities to the Coeur d'Alene campus" at the top of the list.

"The idea is there has to be a specific mandate, and you have to stick to that mandate," Matthews said.

Board members then have to resist the temptation to spend money on projects that don't align with the college's mission, once it is defined, no matter how attractive those projects may be.

Regarding NIC's purchase and development of the education corridor land, Matthews said he has mixed feelings.

"There are certain things about it that are wonderful, like the ability to tie up the land next to the college for future use," he said.

Other aspects of the plan make less sense to Matthews, like the spending that has gone into developing the property's infrastructure well in advance of the need for it.

Matthews said it's unusual to build roundabouts and landscape property long before any buildings go up.

He said the college is spending too much on remedial education - non-credit course work required by students lacking the skills to take college-level classes. This is another indication, he said, of clear direction missing at NIC.

"The governor's workforce training initiative calls for Idaho to cut remedial education in half, and yet, our capital improvement plan calls for NIC to become a remedial education center," Matthews said.

A lack of public openness is another problem Matthews sees at NIC, and promises to address, if elected. He specifically points to the NIC board policy regarding communications with the trustees. That policy calls for members of the "college community, faculty staff and students" to go through the college president when communicating with board trustees.

"The policy says if you're a citizen, you can have a copy of the agenda upon request to the president of the college," Matthews said. "That's absurd."

He calls it a "circle the wagons" mentality with policies designed to limit communication.

Matthews' board and leadership experiences include: past chair of the Kootenai County Planning and Zoning Commission, past chair of the Kootenai County Historic Preservation Commission, past chair of the Kootenai County Capital Improvement Plan Advisory Board, past chair of the Rathdrum Building Codes Review Board, past President of the Rathdrum Area Chamber of Commerce. He has also served on the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee as an elected Republican Precinct Committeeman since 2004.

He co-founded the Westwood Historical Society in Rathdrum, helped found LAM Christian School (formerly the Lutheran Academy of the Master), and was named Rathdrum Citizen of the Year.

When asked what the most important thing is that he would like people to know about him as a candidate, Matthews said: "I'm the Republican in the race."

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