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What voting accomplishes at Chemeketa

By Thomas Laskey

Chemeketa students can thank voters for a couple of brand new buildings on the Salem campus.

When the new applied technology building opens next year, it will be the last of several major projects that were funded by voter-approved bonds.

The bonds were authorized in a primary election more than six years ago.

In January of 2008, then-president Cheryl Roberts was tasked by the Chemeketa Board of Education to campaign for the bond levy to fund those buildings.

“This was a pretty big challenge for her be- cause she had just become president of Chemeketa that preceding summer, so she had been on the job for roughly about six months at the time,” Greg Harris, the college’s dean of marketing and student recruitment, said.

“She was just getting to know the community and making connections with political and community leaders.”

Roberts left Chemeketa this past summer after more than seven years to become president of Shoreline Community College near Seattle.

Julie Huckestein, the college’s vice president, is serving as the interim president during the search for Roberts’ replacement.

Just days before the release of the election results in May 2008, Roberts said, “We’re very confident that we can think of this as a victorious campaign.”

Harris said of the outcome: “It was a big deal, given that it was a primary election and not only did more than 50 percent of the voters have to say yes, but we also had to have a voter turnout of over 50 percent.

“The betting was that because that was the election in which Barrack Obama was first running for president, that would draw voters, and indeed that’s how it turned out.”

The $90 million bond levy received the 50 percent voter turnout requirement and passed by a 54-46 margin, which created the bulk of the fund- ing for a variety of improvements to the college during the past six years.

Other projects funded by the bonds opened up in 2011. These include:

The health sciences complex and remodeled Bldg. 8 on the Salem campus;

The Brooks emergency response classroom building; and

The Yamhill Valley campus building in McMinnville.

The health sciences remodel allowed for two actual clinics to open up on campus: the massage therapy clinic and the dental hygiene clinic.

Speaking about the bond measure, Grace Powell, the office manager of the Oregon Tech dental hygiene clinic, said, “It was an excellent move for Chemeketa because it not only serves students but the community as well.”

Dick Withnell, a Salem-area business leader, helped to lead the campaign alongside Roberts.

Harris said, “Dick Withnell really helped generate support. His contribution was huge.” Withnell said at the time of the campaign,

“The biggest change agent in this tri-county area is Chemeketa college. I’m convinced of it.”

During a recent groundbreaking celebration for the Applied Technologies Building, Huckestein said, “We expect this investment in our education- al infrastructure to make a significant contribution to the economy of our region through the graduates in our programs getting good jobs.”

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