Incoming chancellor announces plans for the district

Autumn Alvarez

With three years left in his tenure as chancellor and CEO of Pima Community College in Arizona, Lee Lambert was elected the new Foothill-De Anza chancellor, taking the place of soon-to-retire Judy C. Miner.

Current Foothill-De Anza chancellor Judy Miner said although she did not participate in the election process, she is pleased with the Board of Trustees’ decision.

“I was certainly excited by the board’s choice,” Miner said. “I do believe that the board chose someone with CEO experience and experience in working directly for a board. (This) really prepares him in a very significant way to be an effective leader of Foothill-De Anza.”

Miner said chancellors need to establish both internal relationships with the board and external connections with people on campus and in the community.

She explained that Lambert’s previous track record shows he can fulfill both responsibilities. 

“(Lambert) already has a very well-established reputation nationally and within the community college system in his own state for his accomplishments,” Miner said.

Lambert started his career in his early 20s when he joined the United States Army and was chosen to be a battalion legal clerk. 

After serving, he attended Evergreen State College in Washington, working in housing operations as a resident assistant, a special assistant to the president of the college and an interim dean overseeing enrollment management. 

He went on to work as a special assistant in civil rights and legal affairs, an employee in human resources, a diversity trainer and an adjunct teacher for  eight years in subjects including civil rights and social justice. Lambert explained what he can bring to his upcoming role as chancellor. 

“I bring the ability to work with a community of individuals,” Lambert said. “I work both internally, with the employees, the students and the board and  externally, with the community, the businesses and all that. (I can)  develop a compelling vision that people buy into and help shape an overall direction for an institution.” 

Miner said community college leaders not only need to understand and help students’ basic needs of housing and food, but also prepare them to thrive in the workforce.

“We should be able to provide (students) with the tools that they need to get hired into jobs that will be paying them enough money to live in this valley, to support a family, if that’s their choice,” Miner said.

Using a “human-centric approach to leadership,” Lambert said that he can meet the needs of the community, students and employees. By listening and working together with the community, he said he can lead the district in a positive way.

“The chancellor alone can’t make that happen,” Lambert said. “It’s all of us working together that makes it happen. So that’s what I’m going to do, first come in and ask some basic questions, (then) take all that in and start to formulate a sense of direction.”

Lambert said he also took into account the values promoted by the district – gaining community support, enabling student success and promoting success in the use of bond money – when he applied for the position.  

“I always look at what the values of the organization are and how they align with my own values,” he said. “I want to know that you actually have  demonstrated a commitment to excellence.”

Some of Lambert’s decisions as the chancellor of Pima Community College, however, have caused controversy. 

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Lambert, on two separate occasions, was found “personally liable for terminating a college employee without providing a hearing or due process” on behalf of the college. Lambert said this wasn’t the full story. 

“In terms of employees, I always follow the process that is outlined for that individual and their terms and conditions of employment,” he said.  ”The media may characterize things differently than how things are actually done. Unfortunately, with personnel matters, management never really gets to fully tell its side of the story.”

Lambert will begin as chancellor on Aug. 1. He said he looks forward to taking on the position. 

“I’m just excited by the opportunity, he said. “I’ve always admired the Foothill-De Anza district from afar.”