After working in the Kansas City metropolitan area for years, new Trustee Paul Snider is deeply connected to the community. He believes the skills he learned in these jobs prepared him for the position on the board.
“I was an in-house consultant for Southwestern Bell, the precursor to AT&T, communicating about their legislative and regulatory initiatives,” Snider said. “That really got me started both on the communications side and on the legislative side.”
Although Snider considered running for public office before, joining the board was not a significant concern of his.
“It wasn’t necessarily a spot that I’d been pining away waiting for the right opportunity to run,” Snider said. “I’d considered a couple times when there had been openings … but running for a public office had never been high on my list of things to do.”
While running the government affairs team for KC Power & Light, he met Mary Birch, current president of the Community College Foundation at the college and government relations coordinator for Lathrop Gage. Birch said Snider ran for the board out of an interest to do positive work for the community, despite his busy lifestyle.
“I think he’s always had an interest in doing something, and he kind of knew he still had to make a living, so I think he wanted to do something local,” Birch said. “[He] couldn’t go to Topeka and give up four months a year … Nothing is harder in Johnson County to do than run for the Board of Trustees for the community college or county chair, and that’s because it’s county wide and we have almost 600,000 people.”
Snider also chaired the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Board, yet another credential that attracted the attention of former Trustee Stephanie Sharp, who believed his involvement would make Snider a functional member of the board.
“There was a vacancy because I was leaving the board,” Sharp said. “[Snider ran by] doing the same things he’s always done, being involved in the community. It’s helpful to know people … you can ask how what you do impacts them.”
Sharp’s soon-to-be absence was a significant push that made Snider decide to run.
“The biggest impetus was Trustee Stephanie Sharp informed me early last year that she wasn’t going to run again,” Snider said. “We’ve interacted in a number of different capacities. She thought that, given my background in service on the Johnson County Parks district board and being involved in various chambers here, that I would be a good candidate to run for the board.”
When Snider began his campaign, he worked to understand the environment and issues at the college, and he believes he still has a lot to process.
“I’m still very much in a learning phase,” Snider said. “The college is involved in so many different things and I started this process last March. I think I attended every board meeting starting in last March. So, I got a feel and started getting ingrained. I had some one-on-one meetings with different administrators here, and then certainly ramped up after the election, doing orientations and one-on-one meetings with people.”
Snider thinks the college is doing really well, and wants to make sure it stays that way.
“The biggest thing that I ran on was just providing continuity for the board in trying to support the direction the college has been heading,” Snider said. “[President Sopcich] and the administration are doing a good job balancing the needs of the community and students and faculty. I didn’t run for the board to be a change agent, it’s really just to provide steady leadership and avoid other people getting on the board that I view would’ve been a distraction to the mission.”
One of his main priorities is workforce development. While he believes the college is succeeding in this area, he is consistently looking for ways it could improve.
“[I’m] just trying to evaluate more and peel back the onion a bit and see if there’s more that we can be doing,” Snider said. “That plays into my background with working with business and chambers and understanding what those trends are and I’ve seen and talked to business owners who have real struggles trying to recruit qualified employees to do different jobs and community college[s] [have] always played a key role in that.”
As he tries to balance his new position with starting a business, Snider is not interested in using it to climb the political ladder.
“I don’t have any direct political ambitions right now,” Snider said. “Maybe 20 years down the road when I’m near retirement I might consider something at the legislative level, state legislature or a county commission seat, but I’ve got no aspirations right now to use this as a platform to run for other things.”