After a four-month search, the board of the South Orange County Community College District has unanimously voted to appoint Cedric Sampson as chancellor.
Sampson, 56, is leaving his job at the Redwoods Community College District in Eureka, Calif., where he's served as president/superintendent for 10 years.
He will replace Robert Lombardi, who retired in April.
Sampson will oversee the multicampus district that serves more than 33,000 full- and part-time students at Saddleback and Irvine Valley colleges.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity in the district," Sampson said. "It's had a number of problems, but they seem to be related to personalities and protocols."
John S. Williams, board president of the South Orange County Community College District, acknowledges the controversies and views Sampson's leadership as a potential salve.
"Sampson is a proven leader who will be able to come in and bring people together," Williams said.
The district has been riddled with problems: from financial problems to conflicts among professors and top administrators over the governance of the colleges, political problems triggered by the recall involving board member Steven J. Frogue, and continuing controversy over a sweeping 1997 reorganization.
"For me, becoming familiar with the people and the problems is the first challenge," said Sampson. He said his priority will be to build a stronger sense of community within the district.
"The new chancellor will need to rebuild the administrative team and assist the board in building a more positive image," Sampson said.
Prior to his time in Eureka, Sampson was vice chancellor for educational services in the Los Angeles Community College District. He also has served as assistant to the chancellor in the Los Angeles Community College District and is a former president of the American Federation of Teachers College Guild.
He received his bachelor's degree in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana. Following a Peace Corps stint teaching English in Thailand, he earned master's and doctorate degrees in Southeast Asian history from UCLA.
He started his career in 1975 as a history teacher at the Los Angeles Mission College in Sylmar.