After months of searching,, Ozarka College has found its new leader.
The college's board of trustees unanimously voted to hire Dr. Dusty Johnston as president of the growing two-year college at a special meeting Nov. 22.
"We're excited and we think he is, too," said Karla Rush, acting president and director for advancement. "We think he will be a good fit."
Johnston is the dean of instruction at Rich Mountain Community College in Mena, Ark., a position he has held since July 1997.
"A goal of mine is to be the president of a community college," he said. "I prefer small schools and rural settings and Ozarka fits that exactly."
"I'm an inclusive leader and I hope to visit with faculty, students, the board and the community to set goals and a strategic plan," he said. "My job as president will be to get after it and make those things happen."
Johnston, a native of Shamrock, Texas, worked 15 years at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, as a teacher and rodeo coach before being promoted to vice president of instruction.
He received his bachelor's of arts, master's of arts and doctorate of education from Texas Tech University.
The Ozarka search committee began advertising for the vacant president position in late August and accepted applications through Oct. 15, Rush said. He was chosen from a pool of 87 applicants from across the nation.
"There was a long list of things and characteristics that we were looking for," Rush said.
The list of qualifications and traits was formed by the search committee and the consultant, Carol Langston.
The qualifications the committee set for the president included a doctorate, five years in administration leadership, experience with a community college environment, experience in budgeting and familiarity with state and federal laws, Rush said.
"There were a lot of things we were looking for. We wanted to make sure we hired the best person we possibly could for the job," Rush said.
The committee narrowed the selection to nine, six from
Arkansas, and then decreased the pool even more to four candidates Nov. 15, Rush said. The college held a campus reception with the final candidates that week to give the public, students and staff an opportunity to visit with the candidates on a more personal basis, said Kim Whitten, public relations specialist.
Johnston and a candidate from Biloxi, Miss., were interviewed that day and the last interviews were held Nov. 22, with applicants from Little Rock and Mountain Home, Whitten said.
"If you had met them all, they were all wonderful," Whitten said. "They would have all done a great job, but the board felt that Dr. Johnston was the best fit overall."
Johnston has accepted the position and is slated to begin work Jan. 3, but no formal contract has been signed, Rush said.
"I feel certain we're going to reach something that is agreeable to everyone," she said.
The college has been without a permanent president since the board voted to fire longtime president Doug Rush in July. The board said Rush's contract was terminated because he failed to comply with state laws, was dishonest and insubordinate and didn't follow college policies after being warned.
Rush has since filed a lawsuit against the college, board members and the vice president of finance.
Rush is requesting a trial by jury on the claims. If judgment is awarded, he asks for preliminary injunctive relief and temporary and permanent restraining orders against all defendants and all costs and attorney's fees to be paid by the defendants. He asks for reinstatement to the position of president or full pay and restoration of benefits in lieu of his job.
Under the contract Rush was paid an annual salary of not less than $121,494, according to his contract signed May 27, 2004.