Retired Navy commander and former Fallon resident Chester “Chet” Burton is adjusting to his new position as Western Nevada College’s acting president.
Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich recently made the recommendation to the Board of Regents after conferring with his selection committee and regents and receiving input from various community groups including one in Fallon.
“At their December meeting, the Board of Regents voted to appoint Chet Burton as acting president of WNC,” said Anne Hansen, director of Information & Marketing Services. “There was no timeline attached to it, or a date for commencing a search for a permanent president. The board deemed the time as not the best for immediately beginning a search because of the time needed to implement the new funding formula, and questions that had been raised about college service areas.”
In making the decision to appoint Burton, Klaich said Thursday it was in the best interst to wait until the regents receive reports that examine shared services with other institutions of higher learning and what future funding awaits from the Legislature for community colleges and universities.
“Until we get back those reports, I felt we should not start a search (for president),” Klaich said.
He added that Burton is currently working on a new budget for WNC.
Klaich said he feels WNC has a great leadership team with the three vice presidents working well together.
“Our people seem comfortable with the leadership, and I’m not feeling any pressure (for a change) from the campus,” Klaich said.
Burton spent 20 years on active duty with the U.S. Navy as a supply officer and retired in 1996 in Fallon after completing his final tour at the naval air station. His other assignments included the Pentagon and Capitol Hill as a legislative liaison. According to his biography, Burton started a career in the corporate sector, working for nine years in a variety of roles including Controller and finance director at International Game Technology, a global-reaching gaming machine manufacturer, His family moved to Reno in 2007.
His wife, Amy, worked as a reporter at the Lahontan Valley News and later as an English teacher at Churchill County High School. The couple has two adult children who graduated from CCHS.
Chet Burton said WNC had a great leadership team to tackle specifically financial issues.
“We have a lot of budget problems,” Burton said, adding his expertise in the Navy and also working at IGT in Reno gives him the expertise to guide WNC at this time.
Burton, though, is modest in the way he is handling the day-to-day operations of WNC, which has campuses in Carson City, Minden and Fallon.
“We have a great group here,” Burton stressed about his leadership team, “but there is not secret that there are challenges.”
Burton succeeded Dan Neverett last summer as WNC’s new vice president of Finance and Administrative Services; however, Burton previously worked at WNC as the controller and fiscal director from 2009-2011.
“It’s great to reconnect with the WNC family and be back as part of the team,” Burton said when he returned to WNC in 2013.
Burton became the acting president role almost two months after Dr. Carol Lucey stepped down in October. Lucey, who served as president for 14 years, had come under fire for the past two years, primarily from a Churchill County grassroots organization (Restore our College Campus Committee) for her decisions to centralize more college services and classes in Carson City because of budget woes.
The Restore our College Campus Committee, according to Regent Ron Knecht, whose district includes Churchill County, kept the spirit alive with their positive outlook and also to rejuvenate and support the Fallon campus.
Knecht said Burton is — essentially — the executive in charge. With Burton at the helm, Knecht said operations at WNC have stabilized and that Burton’s leadership team has been very transparent.
“Since we have budget issues and ongoing management issues going on, let’s have everything settle down,” Knecht added.