Los Rios chancellor set to retire


Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brice Harris

Mark Lewis and Mark Lewis

After 16 years of service as the chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District, Brice Harris announced his retirement on Jan. 12. The 63-year-old Harris earns an annual salary of $390,000, making him the highest paid chancellor in the state until he officially ends his tenure on Aug. 31 of this year.

Harris steps down as the longest-serving chancellor in the district’s history. “I know and appreciate exactly what you have accomplished these many years, and I will forever be grateful to all of you for giving me the opportunity to be part of this truly wonderful organization,” Harris wrote in a letter addressed to his colleagues.

American River College president Dr. David Viar considered Harris much more than a colleague. Viar first began developing a working relationship with Harris years ago in Fresno during Harris’ pre-LRCCD role working with the California Community College League. Viar reacted to hearing of the resignation saying that, “Chancellor Harris will be missed, but he has set a solid foundation for ARC as we continue on.”

Asked to pinpoint a specific action taken by the chancellor that had the biggest effect on ARC, Viar praised Harris’ success in lobbying to get two local bond measures passed. The bonds would provide ARC with funding for campus renovations and a new off-site expansion.

Chancellor Harris will step down merely weeks before the red ribbon cutting ceremony is to be held revealing the campus’ brand new Student Center and expansive new parking structure. Off-campus, students now have the luxury of taking classes at ARC’s bond-funded Natomas Education Center.

Chancellor Harris was asked about the secrets behind his success as the CEO of one of the nation’s largest community college districts. “If there is one thing I think is important, it is a passion — by not only the chancellors and presidents but faculty as well — to care for students and help them achieve their educational goals,” replied Harris.

Harris had planned on retiring last year but was asked by the Los Rios Board of Trustees to stay for one more year to help establish and solidify the 2012-13 budget in a year during which Harris had seen the budget situation go from bad to worse. “I didn’t get in this business to turn students away. It’s been a very, very difficult past two or three years,” said Harris in responding to a district-wide decline in enrollment of 5,000 students from the spring of 2010 to now.

Though Harris will not have any direct involvement in the selection process of his successor, he did note that the board would begin a nationwide search for his replacement that will include the voices of students, faculty and the community when they convene in mid-February. The ultimate decision will rest with the board, which Viar expects to “seek out his advice and council.”

“I have so much confidence in this board of trustees that they will find a great leader with new energy for this organization,” said Harris.

A timeline for selecting the next chancellor has yet to be established. Nevertheless, The Current asked Viar whether he would accept the chancellorship if the board were to deem him the person best suited to succeed Harris. “I have not made that decision,” answered Viar after a brief moment of contemplation.