Fred Harris retires with major projects completedby Jan Janes on Apr 11, 2019
With his trademark wit, Fred Harris described his crowning achievement being placed in the Child Development Center - the location of his current office.
All kidding aside, his five-year tenure comes to a close with his retirement the end of June. Recruited by former president Dr. Steven Kinsella, Harris joined the Gavilan College staff as Vice President of Administrative Services to fill a vacancy. He brought to the position extensive government experience in Sacramento: 11 years in the California Senate and 17 years in the State Chancellor’s Office. His arrival coincided with key projects stymied by bureaucratic slowdowns.
Fred Harris, Vice President of Administrative Services, talks with a vendor about signage for
the new construction site planned for the San Benito County campus in Hollister.
San Martin Airport
The aviation maintenance technology program had relocated from Hollister back to the Gilroy campus, housed in cramped quarters in the Multipurpose Building. Harris used his ability to romance bureaucrats to jumpstart construction of the stalled airport training hangar and classrooms, negotiating a multi-decade lease in the process. He worked with multiple Santa Clara County commissions and the Board of Supervisors, unbending in their demands, to fit the project into their master plan.
Once all the documents were signed, the project had a fast-track nine-month build schedule so students could relocate and continue their FAA certified training.
“This program supports students and veterans,” he said. “It guarantees job pathways into major airlines.” Students have paid internships as they pursue their studies.
Coyote Valley, classrooms and collaborative consortiums
The Coyote Valley campus, home to The Academy teaching new police officers and emergency responders, was another fast track project. Using pristine land in the Coyote Valley required mitigation. The campus now houses five buildings, with plans for one more in the future.
Solar project, with carports and battery storage
Harris oversaw the planning and construction of the solar carports at the main Gilroy campus. More than shady parking and charging stations, the project has multiple benefits. The power generated by the solar panels offsets up to 80% of the college’s electrical usage. Beginning in April, the college can draw from stored power during peak energy use with the installation of battery storage.
“This is a triple benefit,” Harris said. “We have revenue savings that pay for the project, avoid additional costs during peak energy use and save the planet.”
“Between the 10-year lease through Sun Power and the PG&E rebate, the project pays for itself,” he said. “We won the lottery with that rebate.”
Student Center seismic retrofit
Harris followed up on a seismic report showing building deficiencies in the Student Center. He located scheduled maintenance money and Measure E bond money to fund the retrofit of the overall building that housed administration, counseling, financial aid, admissions and the student center. While the building was empty, he ensured basic painting and carpeting was included.
Between Harris's arrival in 2014 and today, Gavilan College has developed an Educational Master Plan and a Facilities Master Plan.
“With new leadership from Superintendent/President Kathleen Rose,” said Harris, “The college had the opportunity to make changes.” He described strategic plans positioning Gavilan to be one of the first community colleges in the state to plan buildings, curriculum and metamajors around Guided Pathways, and to address the state’s new Vision for Success.
Passage of Measure X
Harris expressed huge gratitude for the November 2018 passage of Measure X, Gavilan College’s $248M bond.
“Dr. Rose, immediately after her promotion, dove headfirst into cultivating and healing relationships in San Benito County,” said Harris. That renewed outreach resulted in the favorable response, majority voter support in both Santa Clara and San Benito Counties.
Assisting that effort, Harris served as a board member on the San Benito Chamber of Commerce and the San Benito Business Council. “We worked to change the messaging, listening and being inclusive.” The first of the priority projects will be preparing Fairview Corners in Hollister for construction.
As his time draws to a close, Harris has a few tasks left. He will finalize the mitigation for the rest of the Coyote Valley campus, focus on the new budget cycle and oversee virtualization of the network and upgrades to technology resources.
After June 30, Harris described taking both inner and outer journeys. He and his wife will visit Scotland, family in British Columbia, Canada, and see America. As a young professional he spent time living and studying in India. “I have a very active inner life, spiritual, and will be able to go on silent retreats and other events.”
Given a ukulele as a recent gift, he plans to learn to play so he can write love songs for his wife. “I can use the creative side of the brain,” he said, “Define my retirement, and take all the classes I want.”
Harris described the timing as good for the college, and good for him.
“Gavilan is special, friendly from the board on down. The people here are just outstanding,” he said. “Whatever little part I was able to play, I am thankful for the opportunity to move the district forward into the next 100 years and the students who come.”