The search for Santa Monica College’s next president has gained momentum with the selection of a firm to oversee the recruitment process.

Ralph Andersen & Associates was chosen by the college Board of Trustees to take a leading role in finding a successor for outgoing SMC president Chui Tsang, who in February announced he will retire by the end of June.

The board’s April 21 vote followed presentations by and interviews of representatives from Ralph Andersen & Associates and the three other finalists, including the agency whose search yielded Tsang.

“The board was looking for a firm with a long reach beyond the community college experience, but also with experience in the community college arena as well,” SMC executive coordinator Lisa Rose said. “This firm has a lot of experience nationally and locally.”

Ralph Andersen & Associates, which is based near Sacramento in Rocklin, California, has conducted hundreds of executive searches, including for community colleges such as Pasadena City College, College of Marin and the Sierra Community College District.

The firm will work with the SMC board and a search committee to recruit and examine prospective candidates through background reports and reference checks.

The board’s May 5 meeting is expected to include discussion about the qualities and qualifications it seeks in the college’s next superintendent.

The firm’s SMC contract is for $30,000, Rose said, although that base fee doesn’t include possible costs for travel and other administrative services.

Stan Arterberry and Nicki Harrington are heading up the firm’s upcoming work at SMC. Arterberry is a former chancellor of the Saratoga-based West Valley-Mission Community College District. Harrington is a former chancellor of the Marysville-based Yuba Community College District.

The combination of Arterberry’s reputation and Harrington’s presentation “made it a relatively easy choice,” SMC board chair Rob Rader said. “The board made a good choice. They’re extremely strong in California and have been broadening their search to other regions.”

Rader said the quality of the winning firm’s presentation lifted it above the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Community College Trustees, which had been tabbed by SMC in the search that brought Tsang to campus.

“It came down to those two,” Rader said. “It gave me great confidence knowing that, at the worst, we’d end up with the same consultant. It reassured me knowing we had the prior firm (as a finalist).”

Greenwood/Asher & Associates and Korn/Ferry International were the other two finalists.

The search for Tsang’s full-time replacement is expected to continue through the calendar year, and his successor will likely be named by early 2016. SMC vice president Jeff Shimizu will serve as interim president starting July 1.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, or on Twitter.

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