Friday, June 1, 2007 | 6:51 a.m.
Richard Carpenter's resignation Thursday as president of the Community College of Southern Nevada left university system regents disappointed and searching for lessons they can take from the experience.
The next president, some regents said, should come from the West to possibly reduce the tugs they believe Carpenter felt to move closer to his Southern roots.
Also, his biggest supporters on the board expressed hope that a future president would handle a possible exit more deftly. They believe Carpenter should have been more candid about his interest in the new job outside Houston .
Carpenter is leaving to become chancellor of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District, effective Aug. 1. His decision came after Nevada education officials offered to increase his $286,000 salary package by $50,000 and to give him a new four-year contract. His Texas salary was not disclosed.
"We knew that they had made him an offer and we went as far as we could go to keep him here," Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers said.
Rogers and Regent Chairman Bret Whipple will start interviewing candidates for an interim president next week, and Whipple is putting together a search committee for Carpenter's replacement, a six-month process. No clear successor is in line, as several regents expect Carpenter to take some of his vice presidents with him. One, Rand Key, vice president of planning and development, has followed Carpenter from jobs in Alabama to Wisconsin to Nevada.
Carpenter told the Sun he was humbled by the past few weeks and that the decision to go to Texas was one of the hardest he's ever had to make.
"In the end, I had to do what was best for my family," Carpenter wrote in an e-mail to CCSN faculty late Thursday.
Carpenter declined to discuss his contract with North Harris, which will not be made public until he is confirmed June 7. He said he did not know if he would bring anyone from CCSN with him.
Carpenter's exit is ill-timed, regents said, in part because summer is a bad time to look for new leadership and also because of the stack of projects he had on his plate, such as the college's first major fundraising campaign and the development of a new campus in the northwest valley. Progress on both may be delayed, but Carpenter said he will put together a transition plan.
Carpenter's short tenure - only three years - has also raised new questions about how to keep leadership at CCSN. The college has gone through seven presidents in about 10 years.
Some regents are wondering if the job needs to be restructured because of the college's size - 37,000 students and three campuses - or whether the next president should be a Nevadan or a Westerner.
Carpenter said proximity to family was one of his main reasons for going to Texas.
Some education officials also have discussed tying a new president's bonuses to years on the job, an idea that Rogers had been writing into Carpenter's proposed new contract.
While most regents and CCSN Foundation trustees saw the tug-of-war between Texas and Nevada over Carpenter as market demand for strong leaders, a minority said they were left with a bad taste over how Carpenter handled the situation.
Some felt Carpenter had purposely played the two systems off of each other to get the most money and perks for himself. Others felt he was not forthright about his interest in the Texas post.
As late as this week, Carpenter told regents and trustees that he had no intention of leaving Nevada.
"He told me he was staying and gave me his word," said a very disappointed Regent Steve Sisolak, one of Carpenter's strongest supporters. "I can only imagine that he did what was best for him and his family."
CCSN Foundation Trustees Irene Vogel and Bob Walsh felt they had been misled, having just approved a salary supplement for Carpenter.
"We were told that what we were doing would ensure that he would stay," said Vogel, president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors. "I guess loyalty doesn't exist anymore."
The disappointment was in part because of a nearly unanimous belief that Carpenter had significantly moved CCSN forward, making the tough decisions necessary to bring stability and order to the college.
Carpenter earned praise and criticism for his overhaul of several departments, especially when he outsourced the information technology department.
Chris Daniel, a North Harris trustee, said the tug-of-war between the states "speaks volumes of the value he will bring to our district."