Board of Governors’ candidates face off


The Board of Governors’ candidates at the Sept. 20 forum. From left, Maria Garcia; Sherryn “Vikki” Marshall; Debi Chess Mabie; and Luis Gonzalez.

Maria Garcia and Sherryn “Vikki” Marshall are running on the midterm ballot to fill the seat of Sylvia Lee’s District 3 seat on the Pima Community College Board of Governors. 

Lee served one term for six years after winning the seat from Marshall in 2012. 

Maria Garcia

Garcia’s connection to Pima Community College goes back to the early ’70s. 

Then a new transplant to Tucson, she took up residence near St. Mary’s Road and Grande Avenue with her husband, Jorge Garcia, who relocated to Tucson because of the University of Arizona. 

“I found Pima to be very enlightening,” she said. “I have used Pima … not only in my professional career but also in my personal life in learning how to raise my child by taking child development courses.” 

Garcia started working at Raytheon Missile Systems (then Hughes Aircraft) as an assembler in 1974. 

Later, Garcia moved into the role of technician after her coworkers told her that if she went to Pima and took the digital technology courses, she could take the test and qualify as a technician.

She received an Associate of Arts from Pima in 1984, later attending the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. Garcia held several positions with the company, later becoming a union steward in Local 933 and retired in 2013. 

Hiring and firing matters have been critical issues over the past year at Pima because of budget woes and declining enrollment. 

Pima is presently in the second year of a three-year plan to cut $15 million in spending, with several staffing changes made April 13. This comes after the elimination of 100 staff positions in 2017.  

“I don’t really know the process that they went about selecting the people for retirement, so I’ll be honest about that,” Garcia said. “But in my opinion, voluntary retirements are good. You have to look at what courses they teach, you need to look at what other areas could they have served in before you make a way to cut back. 

“I have heard … that part of it was because some administration didn’t like somebody or they spoke out against somebody,” she said. “That’s the reasons that they were cut.”

Budget is an area where Garcia disagrees with decisions by the Pima administration. 

Perhaps most on her mind is the million-dollar-plus purchase of the Tucson Inn for the Downtown Campus expansion. She does agree that technical training is necessary to train employees for local business, but she believes it needs to be timely.

“If we’re at a 40 percent decline in enrollment, why didn’t they reorganize the entire college to make room for it and not have to purchase the building?” she said. “That, to me, is a waste of money.” 

She also believes that Pima shouldn’t have terminated the football program, citing its benefits for outreach and diversity but recognizing that other community colleges have set that as a precedent.  

“I believe that the elimination of the football program was to save money to put it into the Tucson Inn,” Garcia said. “That was the easiest thing (Lambert) could cut.” 

Pima’s outreach to the community is a major plank of Garcia’s platform. She wants to see a reinvestment of printed course catalogues aimed at local libraries and a series of open houses to show the community what opportunities Pima has to both children and parents.

“It’s basically an information session on what does Pima have and what can it give you and how can you benefit from it,” she said.  

Garcia finds poor outreach efforts a major driver of falling enrollment and Pima’s financial struggle. Promoting the college to Latinos is one of Garcia’s goals with radio and TV ads. 

“I walk up Tumamoc Hill every morning just about, and I listen to Phoenix College being advertised on Latino 103,” she said. “I have yet to ever hear about an outreach on an any other Latino radio stations here in Tucson for Pima Community College. 

Garcia has volunteered with Meals on Wheels, Catholic Community Services and presently serves as a precinct committee member for Legislative District 3. 

“I will work hard to make sure that I represent the students and the community as well as I can,” Garcia said. “I believe in Pima. It needs to survive, and I really feel that Pima’s at a point where it may not be around for my great-grandchildren or my grandchildren and for the community.” 

Sherryn Vikki Marshall

Marshall previously served on the Pima Community College Board of Governors starting in 2000, serving two terms at the District 3 seat until 2012 when the voters elected Sylvia Lee. Lee isn’t seeking re election.

“Literally I got my associate’s here at Pima College,” she said.

Presently, she’s taking classes through the pathways program at Brigham Young University — Idaho. She has vowed to earn a bachelor’s degree in general studies “one way or the other.” 

“I’d thought about Social Services as I’ve over 30 years experience, but achieving the degree will achieve my goal to encourage my family,” she said. 

As a graduate of Pima herself, Marshall understands the need to serve local students and to keep tuition affordable.

“Her experience as a re-employment counselor is important in making sure that a Pima education remains focused on the skills employers need, and her experience as a labor leader can only help in dealing with employees at all levels of the organization,” said Mayor Jonathan Rothschild in a recent email to the Aztec Press.

Born in Iowa, Marshall has lived in Arizona for over 50 years. She worked for Pima County from January 1984 to June 2014.

One major focus was the homeless. Before the county, she also was a deputy registrar, later becoming a notary public in the ’70s working for a construction company.

Marshall is active with unions in her retirement, serving as the vice president of Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR-39-8) and parliamentarian on AFSCME retirees. She previously served on unions for over 35 years.

One of the major issues that Marshall said was brought up during the early part of her campaign was the termination of Pima’s football program. Marshall disagrees with that decision and sees parallels with previous administration’s decision-making process. 

Marshall believes that transparency is the college’s biggest weakness and said it would be her biggest priority.     

“Nobody I’ve talked to was made aware that this was actually going to be decided ahead of time,” she said. “I think that there needs to be more transparency for things like that. The same thing happened when they closed the child development centers. It was a done deal before the board even knew about it. So we either had to fight or we had to accept that he may have good reasons, but we don’t know what they are.

“The transparency just isn’t there.”

Marshall looked back at her previous two terms and described how she could have done things differently. 

“I think that I might have been more outspoken in the general sessions then just quietly abstaining from some votes,” she said. “I think I would have challenged people to prove their allegations or their stance on issues that I thought were important.” 

Marshall’s time on the board

Garcia views her opponent, “Vikki” Marshall, as having a “failed legacy” from her previous two terms on the board because of the reasons outlined in the Higher Learning Commission’s probation of Pima College. 

In her campaign literature, Garcia states:

“Ms. Marshall: 1. Failed to stand up against the elimination of the College’s historic policy on open admissions.”

The board voted in September 2011 to  “require that students who scored lower than seventh-grade level in assessment tests had to participate in a developmental education program called Pathways to Pima,” said Libby Howell, spokeswoman for Pima. 

It was a move that was controversial. The decision passed a 4-1 vote as Motion No. 7030 about Admission Standards. Marshall was the dissenter. 

When asked about this, Garcia responded by email. 

“I didn’t state that Ms. Marshall voted for or against open admissions. She didn’t pose an argument, so in fact she did remain silent.”

In an email, Marshall’s response to the September 2011 meeting was: 

“I did stand and speak out when it appeared my hand raised was not going to be recognized. After speaking at the forum and debating in Exec sessions, it is possible that I did not say very much