Watson to serve as NWC interim president

Posted 11/24/20

The Northwest College Board of Trustees selected Lisa Watson as interim president following a special online meeting Thursday.

Watson and the board negotiated a one-year contract with a clause …

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Watson to serve as NWC interim president


The Northwest College Board of Trustees selected Lisa Watson as interim president following a special online meeting Thursday.

Watson and the board negotiated a one-year contract with a clause that allows either party to cancel the contract with 60-days notice.

Watson has served as the college vice president for administrative services and finance since 2014. Outgoing NWC President Stefani Hicswa appointed Watson as acting president early this month, after Hicswa accepted a chancellor position at Montana State University-Billings. Watson has also been appointed as acting president several other times in the past in Hicswa’s absence.

“I intend to do my best,” Watson said after the announcement was made. “It is true we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, and transformational change has been a topic of great discussion lately. And it must occur.”

Speaking after the meeting, Board President Dusty Spomer said Watson’s familiarity with the college’s difficulties was a primary reason the board chose her.

“I think continuity with Lisa is the number one reason” she was selected, Spomer said,

adding that she’s comfortable with the campus community and the greater Park County community.

Much of the board meetings to select an interim president have been conducted in executive sessions, which are closed to the public.

Spomer declined to specify how many candidates were considered. He said there were other internal candidates who were asked to put their name into the running, but said they weren’t interested. Some other current administrators who were interested were given consideration, Spomer said.

The board did not seek any external candidates, Spomer said, but some candidates from outside the college expressed their unsolicited interest.

Of all the candidates, Spomer said, “there was no one more suited for the position than” Watson.

“We’re glad to have Lisa [Watson] on board, and I think I can speak for the board when I say we’ve been very happy with Lisa’s performance,” Spomer said during the special meeting. “And nobody knows our current situation as Lisa does.”

Earlier this month, the board held a two-hour executive session in which the board voted to proceed with contract negotiations with Watson. The college didn’t disclose which candidate had been selected at that time.

Spomer said Friday that Watson had requested the board not disclose her name while contract negotiations were conducted.

“It was truly a matter of honoring her desire to keep it confidential should we not be able to reach an agreement on terms,” he said. The terms of the contract have not yet been publicly released.

Spomer said the search committee will begin working toward filling the president’s position after the Thanksgiving holiday. Speaking for his own timeline, Spomer said he expects to select a permanent presidential candidate by April, or maybe June at the latest, and that person would hopefully come onboard by the fall 2021 semester.

Spomer said Watson has expressed interest in filling the role permanently, but the college is planning a nationwide search. He stressed that, while Watson would be considered, she would by no means be given preference over other candidates.

“If she decides to apply, she’ll be considered just like anyone else,” Spomer said.

The 60-day clause was included in the contract so the college could pursue a permanent candidate before the one-year term of Watson’s interim presidential contract was complete, should the board decide to do so.

“We want to move swiftly but we want to be methodical and thorough,” in our search for a new president, Spomer said.

A statement from the college on Watson’s selection noted she has a diverse background in small business, corporate and CPA experience. This includes a stint as interim president at Miles Community College in Montana from May 2013 to January 2014.

Watson first established her professional career in Florida where she was a CPA. She held positions there as an institutional separate accounts manager, junior accountant and district resource manager/retail operations manager at Franklin Templeton, H.J. Jenzano and Company and TJ Maxx, respectively.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1990 from the University of Colorado and followed that with an MBA in 2001 from the University of Miami. She was certified as a public accountant in the state of Florida the following year and is also certified in Wyoming. 

“As long as I have the privilege of serving as interim president, I am committed to working with the board, our campus community and the citizens of Park County to serve the mission of the college and to move the college forward to a bright future,” Watson said in the statement. 

Watson currently lives in Cody with her husband, Thomas, and son, Matthew.

Hicswa went on leave Nov. 11, and her last official day is Jan. 8.