LBCC president-superintendent finalists

LBCC's five finalists for superintendent-president (from left): Tod A. Burnett, Melinda Nish, Otto Lee, Reagan Romali and Marvin Martinez.

The search continues for Long Beach City College’s superintendent-president, with five contenders being chosen last week, after months of preparation.

LBCC Board of Trustees President Virginia Baxter announced the names Thursday, Feb. 23: Tod A. Burnett, president of Saddleback College; Otto W.K. Lee, president of Los Angeles Harbor College; Marvin Martinez, president of East Los Angeles College; Melinda Nish, executive advisor to the president at the College of the Marshall Islands; and Reagan F. Romali, president of Harry S Truman, one of the City Colleges of Chicago.

The LBCC Board of Trustees then had a closed session Saturday and a public forum took place Monday, Feb. 27, with both providing comments from the candidates.

A final decision will be made either this or next month among the five, with one taking over for former LBCC Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who left in December to be chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

Selection committee chairwoman and LBCC human resources vice president Rose DelGaudio said they chose the five from 32 people and went through a vetting process.

“We thought these were the best qualified to move forward,” DelGaudio said, noting the board will make the final decision. “I think we’re very lucky. We have a great pool of candidates… The board interviewed the candidates and the process continues.”

DelGaudio said the board would like to make their decision this month (March).

During and after Oakley’s departure, forums took place for people to voice what qualities they wanted in a president. And national firm Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) was hired for $32,000 to lead the search, Baxter said. The board then wrote a draft profile for the position and each board member chose a search/selection committee person from his or her district, Baxter said. The group ended up 22 members strong by November.

Also in November, LBCC’s vice president of administrative services Ann-Marie Gabel was named as interim superintendent-president and took over duties when Oakley left Dec. 19.

Baxter said the replacement decision was important.

“I am a very big supporter of Eloy,” Baxter said in an October interview. “He was involved in the community and statewide. He was dedicated to student success… This is a unique community. We have very strong links and we want to keep it that way.”

She also said she wanted someone with staying power and new ideas.

“We have a longevity here,” she said. “We want to see that, too. I think that’s what makes our college great… We had the College Promise and the scholarship part. Eloy gave us that.”

The following candidate biographies are courtesy LBCC:

Tod A. Burnett

Tod A. Burnett, Ed.D., has been president of Saddleback College since 2008. Prior to that, he was vice chancellor of the California Community Colleges, overseeing the system’s first strategic plan and its first emergency planning and preparedness effort. Burnett also was director of state and local government relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. and deputy appointments secretary for the governor of California. He was a commissioner for the Los Angeles Board of Public Works. Before that, he was a financial and management professional, working at Union Bank, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, companies and entrepreneurial ventures. He now is on boards including the Orange County Workforce Investment Board, South Orange County Economic Coalition, 2-1-1 Orange County Advisory Council, Tilly’s Life Center, Pepperdine University Alumni Leadership Council, and Saddleback College Foundation. Dr. Burnett has an education doctorate in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University, master of business administration from University of Southern California, bachelor of arts in political science from University of California, Riverside, and senior executives in state and local government certificate from Harvard University.

Otto Lee

Otto W.K. Lee, Ed.D., is Los Angeles Harbor College president. Before that, he was vice chancellor instructional services/planning at San Diego Community College District, leading instructional programs, strategic planning, online education, workforce/economic development and military education programs. Before that, he was dean of the school of business, computer studies and technologies at San Diego Mesa College. Prior to that, Lee was founding director of the eBusiness Institute at Temple University. He also has taught engineering and business at community and university levels. He has a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from New York University, master of science in astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MBA from Pepperdine University and a doctorate in education in educational leadership/change from Fielding Graduate University and is director of the National Asian/Pacific Islander Council, the Federal Employees Scholarship Foundation, the MIT Alumni Club and Advisory Board of the Center for Innovation in STEM Education at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Marvin Martinez

Marvin Martinez is East Los Angeles College president. Before that, he was Los Angeles Harbor College president from 2010 to 2013. He was the first vice chancellor of economic and workforce development for the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) in 2008. While there, he was responsible led the development and support of workforce development programs of colleges in the district. Prior to his vice chancellorship, he was vice president of planning and development at Santa Monica College and dean of business and industry. He began his community college career at Cerritos College in 1989 as the director of economic development and coordinator of the vocational and applied technology education act. He is a native El Salvadoran. He immigrated to Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Long Beach, where he graduated from Wilson High School. He has a bachelor of arts in English and a master of arts in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Melinda Nish

Melinda Nish, Ed.D., is executive advisor to the president at the College of the Marshall Islands. She has led the college in institutional integrity efforts, the removal of accreditation sanctions, and the approval process for the college’s first baccalaureate program. Prior to that, was superintendent/president of Southwestern College and vice president of instruction at Orange Coast College. She also was a member of the California Community Colleges Task Force on Student Success. The task force’s final report was basis for SB 1456 — the Student Success Act of 2012. Additionally, she’s a member of the board of directors for the South County Economic Development Council and on the executive committee of the San Diego County College and career readiness consortium. She’s a Salt Lake City native, and earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science and a certificate of international relations from the University of Utah. She received a master of arts from the university in economics and studied French language and translation at the University of Nice, France. Nish finished an educational doctorate at the Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara.

Reagan Romali

Reagan F. Romali, Ph.D., has been president of Harry S. Truman, a City Colleges of Chicago, since July 2011. She has had senior leadership roles prior to coming that: vice president of business services at Moreno Valley College, where she led a team helping the campus gain accredited college status. She also was vice president of administrative services at Los Angeles City College. Prior to the City Colleges of Chicago, she oversaw the launch of two community college campuses in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar for the Houston Community College District. She has taught on an adjunct basis for more than 10 years. She also is on the board of directors for Weiss Memorial Hospital of Tenet Healthcare and Uptown United and a past member of the board of directors for the Chicago Sinfonietta. She has a doctorate in education from Walden University, an MBA from the University of San Diego and a bachelor of arts in English from Rutgers University.

For more information, visit

Emily Thornton can be reached at

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

Load comments