“I cannot believe this right now,” said student Susana Hernandez in reaction to the news she was elected as president of student government.
As the 2014-2015 school year approaches, both Hernandez and Amber Ruedi, the current director of Student Affairs for the council, will be leading the student body. Along with the two elected officers, at least four more positions will be filled as the council restructures and forms new goals for the future year.
By the time voting opened up to Central Oregon Community College students from May 19-21, five candidates were in the running for two of three available positions. Hernandez, Nick Wright and Karl Dinkel vied for the position of president, while current council members Ruedi and Shanelle Allen contested for Vice President of the Associated Students of COCC Affairs.
Election results gave Hernandez the presidency with 50 percent of the vote. Wright was second, with 34 percent, and Dinkel came last, holding 15 percent of votes cast.
“I was in shock,” Hernandez said.
For the position of VP of ASCOCC Affairs, Ruedi also won by a margin of more than 15 percent, gaining 61 percent of the total vote while contestant Allen gathered a total of 33 percent of the votes.
“I feel very honored,” Ruedi said.
Overall, 210 votes were cast for the election, almost half of the total votes cast last year. About 400 votes were cast in the 2013 election, according to Gordon Price, director of student life. Price believes the lower number may have been tied to the fact that there were more applicants last year.
“Sometimes we have 13 candidates,” Price said. “Sometimes we have to beg to get five.”
While election participation was lower, having five final candidates was an improvement on the initial projection. On May 2, when the election packets for the voted offers were expected to be turned in, no one applied. Only after the deadline was extended did applications filter in.
While the delayed deadline did shorten the time candidates had to campaign, according to Price, candidates still got involved in the election process.
Now that Hernandez and Ruedi have been elected, the two finalists should help develop next year’s student council, according to Price.
“I think [Hernandez and Ruedi] have some strong goals and strong direction on where they want to take the council next year,” Price said. “I’m looking forward to working with them, and helping train them.”
Ruedi and Hernandez
While Ruedi already has experience as a council member, ASCOCC is not new for Hernandez, either. Hernandez served as Ruedi’s assistant for the 2013-2014 school year where she “did everything Amber does.”
If she had been asked at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year about her future goals at ASCOCC, Hernandez says she wouldn’t have anticipated becoming president.
“When I first came to ASCOCC, I wasn’t looking to work,” Hernandez said. “I was just looking for volunteering. … In high school I was always working, so I’ve never had time to be involved in clubs, sports, anything. I decided to change that when I was in college.”
Hernandez received the encouragement to apply for elections from Ruedi.
“I though [Ruedi] would be great as president, and I encouraged her to apply for the position,” Hernandez said. “She said no. She said she wanted me to go for it.”
While Ruedi didn’t run for presidency, as VP as ASCOCC Affairs she still has goals for the student council’s future. Ruedi plans to focus on improving student involvement, working with the restructure and enhancing communication.
As the 2013-2014 school year kicks off, a minimum of six ASCOCC officers will fill new positions of president, VP of ASCOCC Affairs, VP for Legislative Affairs, treasurer, director of public relations and director of organization and events. Ruedi wants to aid with ensuring that the transition goes smoothly, as she thinks it will “hold people accountable.”
Ruedi also wants to strengthen links with the branch campuses. This year, Ruedi has made trips to Redmond and Madras branches of COCC, a tradition she plans to continue. Enhancing transportation between branch campuses and the main Bend campus is another idea she hopes to support.
“We can’t make promises,” Ruedi said. “But there are several things that we really want to work on.”
Hernandez’s goals are also people-involved, and are mainly directed towards improving both inner and outer communication and enhancing activities.
Improving the workplace atmosphere
During the 2013-14 school year, according to Hernandez, several complaints surfaced about ASCOCC members “not talking to one another.” Hernandez hopes to improve the workplace atmosphere at the student council by getting council members more involved with what every person is accomplishing, and encouraging people who have worked well in the past to keep participating with the council.
Hernandez’s second facet of improving communication is more directed towards ASCOCC’s relation with students.
“There are so many amazing events that we host, and students sometimes don’t even know about them,” Hernandez said. “Some of the students from Redmond don’t even know about ASCOCC. That’s something we need to change.”
While Hernandez will be dealing with a 23 percent cut to ASCOCC’s budget, she believes it will be a “good challenge.”
“We have been spending money on things we might not need, so instead I want to make events that are benefitting for everybody, instead of just a certain age type,” Hernandez said.
As Hernandez and Ruedi look at working together, Ruedi is looking forward to having her previous assistant serve as the council’s president.
“[Hernandez] is so caring, so giving, so supportive,” Ruedi said. “That is going to be amazing just watching her learn and go through the entire process.”
Finding the rest of the council
While ASCOCC elections are at an end, the hiring process is continuing with an appointment committee. Originally, only three positions were expected to be appointed by a COCC-selected committee. However, as no one applied for VP of Legislative Affairs, now four positions are slated to be hired by the appointment committee.
Applications for appointed council members were due May 23, and eight students ended up applying for positions. To date, Justin Warren is the only applicant for VP for Legislative Affairs. Current ASCOCC Director of Fiscal Relations Shanelle Allen is running against student Ashley Poe and Bonnie Rolin for treasurer, while the director of public relations position also has one applicant, Dennis Smith. Yuridi Durantes, Todd Monroe and Ryan Traughber are all running for director of organizations and events.
The appointed council interviewed applicants from June 2 through June 5, and COCC President Jim Middleton will confirm the new council on June 9. All elected members will begin their roles July 1, while appointed members will start by August 15.
While Ruedi and Hernandez are currently unaware of who will be serving with them, both are looking forward to the start of their terms.
“Being involved with ASCOCC puts you in so many aspects with the college community and college faculty,” Ruedi said. “It’s really worth it.”
Junnelle Hogen | The Broadside