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Rachel Pokrandt selected as next Umpqua Community College president

Rachel Pokrandt will become the 12th president at Umpqua Community College when she steps into the role on July 1, the board of education announced Friday during a special meeting.

“We are so looking forward to meeting all of you in person in July,” Pokrandt said when she addressed the community after the announcement was made. “I cannot wait to be out of Zoom-land and be in a room with all of you. And it really cannot come soon enough. I am thrilled. I have permagrin.”

Pokrandt will take over the position from Debra Thatcher, who is retiring on June 30. Thatcher has led the college since 2016.

After Thatcher announced her retirement, the school board decided to take on the search for a new president on its own — without the help of a hiring firm — and received more than 80 applications.

“The applicants were truly outstanding,” UCC board chair Steve Loosley said. “Many were exceptionally well-qualified having dedicated their entire lives and careers to help students succeed.”

Pokrandt was chosen as one of three finalists, who met with the board of education in person, toured the campus and held a virtual town hall meeting where they fielded questions from the community.

Loosley thanked the community, search advisory committee, school board, staff and faculty for their input in the search for the new president.

Pokrandt said the unique presidential profile is one of the things that caught her attention and made her want to apply for the position.

“I love it because it had just that right blend of passion for what we do in a community college setting and your sort of rural community in Oregon, and then just a little sense and a hint of fun and irreverence that I think matches who I am as a person and a professional,” Pokrandt said last week. “It really spoke to me, which is why I was excited to apply for this position.”

Loosley said the decision to hire Pokrandt was unanimous. She has a contract that will pay her $200,000 a year, which was approved during Friday’s special meeting.

HISTORY

Pokrandt is currently serving as the vice president and campus dean for Colorado Mountain College.

Although she has worked in administration for colleges for a number of years, her path has been nontraditional.

Pokrandt grew in the United Kingdom. She started working as a high school teacher and then moved into the business side, developing curriculum packages, before moving on to work for nonprofits and eventually landing in higher education.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts and British literature, a bachelor’s degree in educational studies and social science, a master’s degree in management and strategy and a doctorate in management.

And, according to her Colorado Mountain College profile, she once won best costume in a haunted trail 5K.

FUTURE

Pokrandt said she is focused on finishing up her work at Colorado Mountain College, while also learning more about Umpqua Community College and starting the onboarding process.

“I have already received a great deal of help from current UCC staff and of course the board, and I will continue to seek their wisdom and knowledge to set me up for success,” she said.

While touring the campus last week, Pokrandt marveled at the beautiful location and surroundings of the college. She jokingly said it might become her biggest barrier to getting things done.

Pokrandt prefers not to see barriers, but rather opportunities which will require teamwork to overcome.

“Tough times don’t last, but tough teams do,” she said. “Besides which, it wouldn’t be much fun to come in and have no big hairy problems to work on.”

Pokrandt said that during her first 90 days on the job she wants to be a learner.

“What I always encourage people onboarding in a new job to think about — in our sorts of institutions — is: This is how students feel,” she said. “They come in and they are bombarded with learning. And it’s exhausting, and it’s a lot, and it’s overwhelming, and there’s going to be moments when you have no idea what you are doing and you don’t even understand some of the language that people are using. Because every sort of culture and institution has its own language. So, I intend to be an exhaustive learner.”

Enrollment and finances have been two of the most persistent problems for the college over the years.

“I have a track record of innovating my way out of tight budgets and not simply making cuts,” she said. “I also have a deep fundraising and friend-raising background that I believe I can deploy to help us figure out how to do more with less. In addition, I will be looking for partnerships with business, government and nonprofit entities to leverage resources that benefit all sides of that partnership.”

Pokrandt said she wants to make sure prospective students know how a credential from UCC can transform lives. She wants work with local employers to hear about the needs, so the college can work to train people to fill that need.

“They are our student’s future employers,” she said. “We have a responsibility to be talking to those folks.”

Pokrandt also hopes the campus will be able to better reflect the community, when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. She said her experience as an immigrant make her understand the point of view of people who don’t instantly feel like they belong.

Students are the most important people on campus, according to Pokrandt who said she would like to see students on every hiring committee and task force.

“I’m thrilled that the college has a student newspaper and I hope to learn more about how they can help keep me accountable,” Pokrandt said.

Pokrandt has continued to teach, which helps her keep in touch with the students and their needs.

“I’m not someone who loves to sit in an office so I’ll be out and about interacting with students as much as possible — that will be baked into my day,” Pokrandt said. She said she enjoys participating in extra-curricular activities with students, such as karoake, skiing, rafting, and attending sporting events.

When asked to describe her leadership style, Pokrandt said, “I don’t really believe in leadership style. I don’t think leaders can afford, in this day and age, to be one-trick ponies. We all have to be multi-dimensional.”

In addition to leading the college, Pokrandt wants to focus on being of service to students, staff, faculty and the community in her new role.

“I think everybody wants to go to work every day and feel like they have helped somebody else, and that they have been useful, and that their talents have been put to good use,” she said. “I think my professional goal in the role is to find out where I can be of most use and then perform to my highest abilities. And I can see a few places, I think, where some of my strengths will play. And I hope all of you will help me find what that might be as well.”


Court
Trial set for man accused of stealing land in Elkton

He showed.

Tyrone Curtis Powell was slumped in a wheelchair and breathing with the help of an oxygen tank, but he made his court appearance Friday as he defends himself against allegations he stole 30 acres from an Elkton woman.

Powell was arrested Feb. 26 and charged with five felonies, including aggravated theft, identity theft and perjury, in connection with the purported theft of the land from Janet Grosz, 66. He had been held in the Douglas County jail since his arrest. On March 26, a misdemeanor charge of initiating a false report was added.

On March 31, Powell was released from jail after signing a one-page conditional release agreement in which he agreed to “seek immediate medical treatment.” Under the agreement, Powell, 40, also agreed to appear in court when directed. The amount of money Powell needed to post before being released was zero, according to the agreement.

On Friday, Powell appeared before Judge William Marshall for an update on his case.

Powell had an oxygen tank hanging from the back of the wheelchair, and had to be pushed around.

He had on a black and brown knit cap, black rimmed glasses, a dark navy jacket, black pants and black crocs. Powell wore a silver watch on his left wrist, and what appeared to be a plastic hospital ID wristband on his right wrist.

Throughout the roughly 20-minute hearing Powell slumped forward in his wheelchair, his hands folded in his lap, as if he was having trouble sitting upright. He spoke one word during the hearing, and it was barely audible.

“Yes,” Powell whispered when Marshall asked to affirm that he had pleaded not guilty.

Powell is undergoing tests to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

“We believe that Mr. Powell has underlying medical issues that affect his ability to recall,” said his court-appointed defense attorney, Gina Marie Stewart.

There was a moment when it appeared that Powell might be put back in jail.

According to the conditional release agreement that allowed Powell to be released from jail, he was to remain at a location in Cottage Grove. However, Stewart acknowledged that Powell was actually staying at a hotel in Eugene.

“So he was released to live in a certain place, and you’re saying he’s not living there?” Marshall asked. “It troubles me when someone is not living where he is supposed to be.”

Prosecutor Allison Eichmann suggested that Powell be brought back to jail.

“If that’s not what is authorized by the release agreement, then we ask that he be remanded,” she said.

Marshall ultimately allowed Powell to remain out of jail. But he bristled again when Stewart said Powell had been dutifully checking in with her by phone twice a day.

“So he can speak on the phone but he can’t speak here in court?” Marshall asked rhetorically.

At one point, Powell was placed in the front spectator row in a spot designated for those in a wheelchair. Grosz was sitting in the same row a few feet away. The two did not look at each other.

Grosz said when she met Powell in 2019, he went by the name John Paul Hope. He told her about his plans to create a place where disabled veterans could live in dignity. Grosz, a widowed, retired nurse, agreed to give him 3 acres of her 55-acre ranch in Elkton for his plan to build housing for those veterans.

But authorities now say that nothing Powell said was truthful. The veterans housing project he proposed was fiction and instead of using 3 acres of Grosz’s ranch he forged documents and took possession of 30 acres, authorities said.

They also said Powell has been swindling individuals and corporations for years, often through phony nonprofit organizations he claimed to run. He operated at least a half-dozen fraudulent nonprofit organizations under such names as “The Missing Piece Foundation,” “True Story World,” and “Love,” authorities said. Those fake nonprofits accepted donations from individuals and corporations, but Powell either kept, discarded or sold them, police said.

Grosz filed a civil complaint against Powell to get her land back. That case is still winding its way through the court system.

Friday, Marshall set a July 20 trial date for the criminal charges against Powell.

Following the hearing, Grosz stood in the hallway shaking her head.

“I thought for sure they would put him in jail,” she said. “It’s all a game and he’s good at it. He’s going to pull it off as long as he can.”


News
Faith, bravery and love: Stanley 'Allen' Burdic remembered for living a full life

Honesty. Faith. Humor. Love.

Those were just a few of the words used to describe Stanley “Allen” Burdic, a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was wounded in a shooting in 1981 and ultimately died from his injuries March 11.

Friends, family and fellow law enforcement officers gathered Saturday at the Tri City Baptist Church to remember the life of Allen Burdic, who died at the age of 65, nearly 40 years after he was wounded in the line of duty on a fateful night in August 1980, when he encountered a suspected shooter at a Myrtle Creek tavern.

On Aug. 12, 1980, Burdic responded to a reported shooting at the Nutshell Tavern in Myrtle Creek. Some time in the early morning hours of Aug. 13, Burdic located the suspect, Jack Flack, at a gravel turnout north of the Myrtle Creek Bridge near Interstate 5. Flack opened fire on Burdic, striking him twice. He then stole the deputy’s patrol car. As the suspect left in the stolen patrol car, he ran over Deputy Burdic’s legs.

Burdic sustained serious injuries from the gunshot wounds, including from a bullet that injured his spine. He developed a limp and was partially paralyzed in one arm after the incident. The injuries prevented his return to his position as a deputy, and he medically retired from the sheriff’s office in 1982.

“He was a truly kind and humble man,” said Erlah Burdic, Allen’s wife of 36 years. “I was so blessed to be his companion and his wife for 36 years. He was brave. He was my hero. He was my dearest friend.

“He was just a guy, like any guy, but he did have God’s spirit in him,” Erlah said during the eulogy. “No matter what happened to him, he was determined that he would never waiver from his faith.

“Not the shooting. Not the pain. Nothing.”

Chris Burdic had been adopted by Allen when he was just 6 years old. One day, he was helping his former stepdad-turned-dad with a project at their Glendale home. Chris said Allen insisted that Chris “grab that brick.” Chris told the crowd he had no idea what brick his dad was talking about, so he went and grabbed one.

The brick he grabbed was serving as a wheel chalk for the family’s boat trailer.

“That trailer started going downhill backwards and he ran over, grabbed the trailer, and pulled it back up the hill,” Chris Burdic said.

“I always called him Allen, because that’s how he was introduced to me. But he was my dad. No matter how long, he was my dad.”

Following a sharing of memories from those gathered, Pastor Rick Smith read a passage from the Bible specifically chosen by Allen Burdic: Psalm 23.

Erlah Burdic read from a poem she had written in 1997 entitled, “Going Home,” which she said was fitting for her late husband: “I’m no longer here, my body is gone. But know that my spirit still lives on.”

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office flag team performed the ceremonial unfolding of the flag, after which “Taps” was played before the flag was folded and presented to Erlah Burdic by Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin.


Burdic

Stanley ‘Allen’ Burdic


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