Pihos seeks College of DuPage seat as independent voice
Former state Rep. Sandra Pihos, who fell just short of election to the College of DuPage board last spring, says she would be a good appointee to fill Kathy Hamilton's term because she is not aligned with either faction on the bitterly divided board.
"After working in Springfield -- as you can imagine, working with 117 other legislators on legislation, getting bills passed -- you learn effective compromise," Pihos said. "So I think I have an extensive history of collaborating with a wide variety of stakeholders on public issues among parties with divergent opinions."
She is one of at least 20 candidates who have expressed interest in the appointment.
Last spring, the Glen Ellyn resident finished fourth in a 12-candidate field for three seats on the COD board -- 1,267 votes behind third-place finisher Charles Bernstein and 9,264 votes ahead of fifth-place finisher Nancy Svoboda.
Pihos said her strong finish in the spring election makes her a logical candidate for an appointment now.
The opening occurred last month when board chairwoman Hamilton resigned unexpectedly.
The board is split 3-3 with opposing factions, and if it cannot reach a consensus on an appointment by Feb. 11, the decision would go to the chairman of the Illinois Community College Board. That's Laz Lopez, assistant superintendent at Northwest Suburban High School District 214, based in Arlington Heights.
COD Trustee Deanne Mazzochi said the board should try to choose a new trustee, though two trustees from the opposing faction, Dianne McGuire and Erin Birt, wrote to Lopez last week to say they think it will fall to him.
"When it comes to the new trustee selection, in my viewpoint, I think that all the trustees should try to engage in their best effort to identify someone, but unfortunately Trustee McGuire appears to have proclaimed an impasse without even showing up to a single meeting to try to have that conversation," Mazzochi said.
McGuire could not be reached for comment.
Pihos said she felt she would be viewed as a nonpartisan voice that could help bring the board together. She added she is acquainted with the three trustees against whom she ran, pointing out as well that COD sat in her district for 12 years while she served as a representative "so I'm acutely aware of all the issues that it had over those 12 years."
She said it is painful to view what is happening on the COD board, which has not been able to gather a quorum for a meeting since Hamilton's departure.
The discord is especially painful in light of the Higher Learning Commission report questioning the quality of COD's governance, Pihos said.
"And so we're playing right into their hands here, which is worrisome because it puts the entire community ... in jeopardy right now," Pihos said.
"I believe that there is common ground. But it's going to take compromise on everybody's part.
"I think we can overcome this. I'm just not sure that they can overcome it as long as there is a 3-3 split."
Pihos said she would prefer the seventh trustee be chosen by the COD board "because it is a local community board and in order to make the best decisions for our community, they should prove that they can provide the leadership to at least make this decision."
Among the other applicants is another candidate in last spring's election, Matt Gambs of Naperville, who finished ninth.
When contacted, Gambs said, "I do not want to appear to be campaigning for this position."
However, he said, "We have to find a way to go forward. It's about the students now. It's about the stakeholders now. It's about the millions of dollars we invested in it. It needs to be protected. I don't know all the details of what happened in the past. I just want to move forward."
Other candidates who have indicated interest include:
Ed Agustin of Naperville; Jennifer Barron of Naperville; Jim Dahle of Elmhurst; Gavin Engel of Wheaton; Edward Franckowiak of West Chicago; James Hatcher of Wheaton; Conner Heider of Aurora; Victoria Hrody of Downers Grove.
Also, George Kocan of Warrenville; John Pilafas of Villa Park; Anthony Przeklasa of Indian Head Park; Thomas Pulver of Glen Ellyn; Raymond Rodriguez of Glen Ellyn; Tim Ressel of Glen Ellyn.
And, John Rutledge of Wheaton; Stephen D. Spangehl of Clarendon Hills; Kotryna Staputyte of Naperville; and Aaron Thomson of Wheaton.
Daily Herald senior writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report.