100918 Hancock board 1

Hancock College President/Superintendent Kevin Walthers speaks about new management appointments during a recent board meeting. Trustees voted to fill six vacancies or openings in the college's leadership structure.

The Hancock College board of trustees recently approved the appointment of six key management positions, filling roles that will oversee several aspects of the college including financial, facilities and strategic communication.

"It's very exciting [to have] folks coming on board and stepping up to take leadership positions,” said Hancock College President/Superintendent Kevin Walthers.

Retirements, internal promotions and separations over the past few months have resulted in the spate of vacancies and openings at the administrative level. Walthers said the college has worked diligently to fill the openings while ensuring day-to-day functions are unaffected.

“It was a team effort,” Walthers said. “You saw people step up and raise their hand ... to make this work.”

Hired for his background in education and fiscal management, Eric D. Smith was approved by trustees to serve as the college’s vice president/associate superintendent for finance and administration. Smith, who currently serves as an intervention specialist with the state’s Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), replaces former vice president Michael Black, who retired June 30.

Prior to his work with FCMAT, Smith served as deputy superintendent and chief business officer at the San Luis Obispo County Education Office, and at school districts in Santa Barbara, Berkeley, Paso Robles and Eureka City. He holds a master’s in public administration from Cal State University, Stanislaus and a bachelor’s in political science from Cal Poly Pomona.

“I think it's a tribute to how well-run Hancock is, that you could have had vacancies in some of these areas,” said Richard Mahon, academic affairs dean and management association representative. “Most colleges do not tolerate the absence of one or multiple vice presidents very long. I think it's a tribute to the college that policies and procedures are in place to allow breathing room to appoint the right person.”

Ruben Ramirez, outgoing associate director and human resources manager for the San Diego State University Foundation, will be joining Hancock as the Human Resources director. Ramirez replaces Kelly Underwood, who resigned July 1.

In addition to his tenure with the San Diego State University Foundation, Ramirez worked in similar capacity at the San Diego State University Research Foundation and at College of the Desert. He holds a master’s in management from the University of Redlands and bachelor’s from CSU Northridge.

Dunn School Director of Strategic Engagement and Communications John Hooten was named executive director for college advancement. Hooten will replace outgoing Executive Director Susan Houghton, who will retire from the position at the start of the new year.

Hooten has a background in communications and marketing, both as a self-employed brand consultant and at an institutional level. He has served in management capacity at Claremont Lincoln University and Claremont School of Theology, both in Claremont, California. Hooten holds a Ph.D. and master’s from Claremont Lincoln and bachelor’s from Anderson University in Indiana.

Lauren Milbourne joins Hancock from Cuesta College, where she serves as the public information officer and media relations coordinator. She replaces Andrew Masuda, who resigned Sept. 1.

Prior to her time at Cuesta, Milbourne worked at West Valley Mission Community College District in Saratoga and was director of Public Relations with San Luis Obispo-based S. Lombardi & Associates. She also worked as a news producer with KSBY-6 in San Luis Obispo. She holds a bachelor's from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The college also promoted Holly Nolan Chavez, grants analyst, to the vacant deputy sector navigator -- agriculture, water and environmental technology. She replaces Margaret Lau, who was promoted by the college to dean of academic affairs July 1. Chavez holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Davis, and master's from CSU Bakersfield.

Trustees also appointed James Harvey, maintenance supervisor, to interim director for facilities. He replaces Rex van den Berg, who retired Oct. 1. A graduate of Hancock who has been employed with the college for nearly two decades, he holds an associate degree in maintenance machining. 

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga


Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.