Edward Martinez, incoming president of Luna Community College in Las Vegas, N.M.

The board of Luna Community College in Las Vegas, N.M., has approved a three-year contract with a $170,000 annual salary for incoming President Edward Martinez, who plans to step into the position in June.

“I have confidence in you that you will move this institution forward,” board Vice Chairwoman Dianna Medrano told Martinez at a meeting last week, when the contract was approved.

Martinez, who signed the contract Wednesday, will start the job June 21, concluding a presidential search that began in January.

Currently, he is a special assistant to New Mexico Highlands University President Sam Minner. Martinez holds a doctorate in environmental and resource sciences from Washington State University.

He previously served as vice president for strategic enrollment management at Highlands. He also created the Achieving in Research, Math and Science Center at the school to provide support for students in math and sciences.

In his candidacy for the Luna position, Martinez highlighted his Northern New Mexico roots and his belief that Luna Community College is an integral part of the Las Vegas economy. During a community forum hosted by Gold Hill Associates, the company contracted to aid in the presidential search and contract negotiations, Martinez listed student support as a main priority.

“I’m a very student-driven administrator,” he said in an April forum. “So I believe the most important responsibility of a president is to provide access and access to students and have the support systems in place, whether they’re academic or social support systems in place to ensure degree completion for those students. I would say that’s number one.”

Martinez steps into office following the appointment of interim President Kenneth Patterson. Patterson will be the school’s vice president of instruction and student services.

Martinez’s presidency comes after a few tumultuous years at the school.

Luna Community College was put on probation by accreditation nonprofit the Higher Learning Commission in 2018 for issues including nepotism and missing equipment.

In February 2019, the board of trustees hired Rolando Rael as president on a 15-month contract with an annual salary of $130,000. By June 2020, board members voted to place Rael on administrative leave and not to renew his contract.

Luna probationary period was lifted by the accreditation firm in November 2020.

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