The Alamo Colleges District board of trustees Thursday night named Palo Alto College President Ruben “Mike” Flores as the lone finalist candidate for chancellor, voting unanimously to select from within the system to replace outgoing Chancellor Bruce Leslie.

After a three-and-a-half-hour executive session that included candidate interviews and roughly an hour of deliberation, trustees announced Flores as their pick. If approved, Flores would begin work as chancellor at the end of September, but would start the process of on-boarding soon.

State law prescribes a 21-day waiting period for public feedback. Board President Yvonne Katz said Flores will host meet-and-greet sessions around the district to get to know community members. She had no further details about the sessions.

Katz said a final vote could take place as early as March 2.

The board interviewed candidates on both Tuesday and Thursday nights, but Katz  declined to say who interviewed or how many candidates were considered. Flores was not the only internal candidate, Katz said.

Flores became Palo Alto College’s sixth president in September 2012. A Del Rio native and graduate of Holmes High School in San Antonio, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

He has worked at Palo Alto since 1999 and has previously served as vice president of academic success, vice president of college services, and vice president of student success.

“He is a local candidate, a local president. He knows the community and knows the colleges,” Katz said of Flores.

Leslie announced last October that he would retire in September of this year. Giving almost a year’s notice allowed trustees to get started on the search with time to spare.

Alamo Colleges spokeswoman Kristi Wyatt said the search process “began almost immediately” after Leslie announced his retirement. Gold Hill Associates, a community college executive search firm, led the closed search.

The district’s board of trustees asked applicants to submit interest by Dec. 22, 2017, and began review of the applicants through an advisory committee, which selected candidates to be invited for in-person interviews.

The full board of trustees then began interviews on Tuesday night and finished them Thursday in closed session. Flores interviewed on Tuesday night, Katz said.

Much has changed in Leslie’s 11 years with the community college district. In 2006, Alamo Colleges awarded 3,707 degrees with an enrollment of 50,166. In 2016, the number of degrees awarded rose to 12,003, and enrollment increased to 59,910.

Leslie’s time at Alamo Colleges was not without controversy. His career was marked with opposition from faculty members in the form of no-confidence votes and warning sanctions for St. Philip’s College, Northwest Vista College, and San Antonio College by the colleges’ accreditation body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

At the very end of his tenure with Alamo Colleges, Leslie and the college system received voter approval of a $450 million bond package that includes expansions at Northwest Vista, Northeast Lakeview College, and Palo Alto College campuses.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.