Ryan Ruda will be Garden City Community College’s seventh permanent president, board of trustees members decided in a unanimnous vote Tuesday night, following an hour-long closed session.

Ruda has carried out the president’s duties at GCCC for six months, five of which he’s officially served as interim president. The board elevated Ruda to the role without seeking other candidates or conducting a search, said Trustees Chair Blake Wasinger.

Ruda, who expressed interest in the position in 2018, was the only candidate, he said.

Ruda has worked at GCCC since 1999, serving as a counselor and academic advisor, director of counseling and advising, vice president of student services, athletic director, chief administrative officer and interim president. This will be his first time serving as a college president.

He earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice and master’s in counseling from Fort Hays State University in 2007 and 2009, respectively, and his doctorate in Community College Leadership from National American University in December 2018.

Since officially becoming interim president in September, Ruda has highlighted community connection, including public questio-and-answer sessions via Facebook Live and at “Coffee with the President” meetings, where Ruda and interested students, staff and community members discuss the college at local coffee shops. In the short term, he said in a statement, he is “looking to continue to send the message of transparency and engagement with the community.”

“... finding different ways to go around and listen to the community members and hearing from community members is critical. You have to remember that this is a community college. The engagement events are going to be things that we still put into place … and highlighting programs and the attributes that the college has are still a crucial piece. All of that will continue,” Ruda said in a statement Wednesday.

As president, Ruda said that he wants to “engage with the community in the long term,” in part by expanding, enhancing and bringing new programs to the college’s career and technical education programs. He also wants to focus on fine arts.

“I want to continue to build Garden City Community College into the fine arts hub for southwest Kansas,” Ruda said in the statement.

Contract and salary negotiations will begin soon, but the board has no set timeline, Wasinger said. He said Ruda will continue to carry out the president’s duties, but his official first day under contract is uncertain.

Once Ruda’s contract is squared away, GCCC will begin looking for a replacement for Ruda’s vice president position, Wasinger said.

In that position, Ruda makes $109,000 a year, plus an additional $2,000 a month for serving as interim president, compared to Swender’s 2018 salary of $157,090 a year.

The board stands in full support of Ruda, Wasinger said.

Trustee Merilyn Douglass said Ruda had performed well as interim. His “heart and soul” is in the work, she said, and she believes he’ll work hard to meet board expectations.

He’s been available and transparent to the public and “calm(ed) the waters” after months of “upheaval” at the college, said Trustee Leonard Hitz.

Wasinger said Ruda also understands the innerworkings of the college.

“The board felt like .... he was the right fit. He’s invested locally. He’s a good fit for the community … He’s lived here. He knows the community, the surrounding area, and that has merit, too,” Wasinger said. “There could have been other options exhausted, but we felt like, at this time, that Ryan certainly fit the bill and certainly was capable of moving forward as president.”

Trustee Terri Worf declined to comment. Crist and Trustee Steve Martinez did not respond to calls seeking comment.


Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.