COD officials vote to appoint replacement for outgoing trustee; former city mayor first to indicate interest

Ron Oden, who served as Palm Springs mayor from 2003 until 2007, said he would like the seat that was vacated by Fred Jandt, who resigned last month due to health concerns.
Former Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden (center) accepts an award from another former mayor, Geoff Kors (left) and then-Human Rights Commission Chair Ron deHarte, a current member of the City Council.

A former Palm Springs mayor and College of the Desert (COD) educator was the first to step forward Friday as a hopeful replacement on the college’s Board of Trustees.

Ron Oden, who served as the city’s mayor from December 2003 until December 2007 — as well as a member of the City Council for eight years — said he would like the seat that was vacated by Fred Jandt, who resigned last month due to health concerns. COD trustees elected to replace Jandt by appointment rather than holding a special election.

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“I began teaching at COD in 1990 and have taught thousands of students,” Oden said in an email. “I also have served as a board member of Cal State San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus. I earned the confidence of Palm Springs residents when for a dozen years I served them as a consensus-building mayor and councilmember.”

Jandt represented Area 3, which includes portions of Palm Springs and Cathedral City. Residents and leaders in both cities have been pushing COD officials to follow through on projects years in the making. Included in those projects is a proposed satellite campus in Palm Springs that has become a flashpoint between some COD officials, elected city leaders, citizens and business leaders.

Voters began approving what was to become nearly $1 billion in bond money for college officials to use on new campus construction in 2004. Today, it remains in the planning phase on 29 acres at the corner of South Farrell Drive and East Baristo Road. A sprawling campus on 118 acres in the north end of town was once promised, but those plans shifted in 2014.

Oden, who taught sociology at the college starting in 1990, was mayor when the plans to build the Palm Springs campus were first approved by the COD Board in 2007. He applauded the current trustees for moving forward with the appointment process, which a COD representative said would conclude by the end of May.

“As someone who has served on the faculty of COD, I understand what is working well and where COD can improve in order to best serve students and recruit and retain the best faculty and staff,” Oden wrote. “As the grandparent of a recent graduate, and having interacted with COD students for three decades, I know the challenges students face and the incredibly rewarding benefits of higher education.”

Jandt was first elected to the Board in 2016 and was re-elected in 2020. Whoever receives appointment will serve until the next regularly scheduled election for governing board members, which is scheduled for November 2024.

Jandt’s replacement isn’t the only leadership vacancy the COD Board must deal with. Dr. Martha Garcia, the current president and superintendent of the college, is vacating her position after less than two years. She was recently named the next president of Mt. San Antonio College near Los Angeles.

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