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Here’s who is searching for a new North Carolina Community College System president

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Updated Sept. 21, 2022, at 4:54 p.m. with information on the first meeting of the presidential search committee.

The State Board of Community Colleges discussed the presidential search process during its meeting on Friday, Sept. 16, following its appointment of a bipartisan search committee in a closed-session meeting last month. 

At that meeting, the Board unanimously voted to hire a firm experienced in higher education leadership searches. The N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) said in a release that the search committee would consist of 14 voting members – 10 Board members and four others with community college and business experience.

There are now 13 voting members on the committee. The search committee held its first meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, to discuss finalizing a Request for Approval (RFP) to hire a search firm.

“The search committee will interview prospective search firms in the coming weeks and will go through the procurement approval process required by the state of North Carolina for such a selection,” an Aug. 19 release from the system said. “The search committee will keep the board and the public up to date throughout the process.” 

The full Board voted on Friday to give the search committee delegated authority to approve the completed RFP. The Board will consider the selected firm at its November meeting, if not before. The firm must then be approved by the state Department of Administration.

At the search committee meeting on Wednesday, members discussed the RFP and decided to meet on Monday with plans to approve the document. The committee also plans to hold bimonthly meetings on Wednesday mornings, starting Oct. 5 and going through Dec. 14, Carraway said on Wednesday.

“Selecting a firm will have a critical impact on the search calendar and ultimately, on the speed at which we can acquire a new president,” Carraway said. “This is the beginning of this process.”

The system announced Bill Carver as interim NCCCS president shortly after Thomas Stith’s resignation, effective July 22. Carver, former president Nash Community College, served in the interim role previously in 2020.

Stith was the sixth NCCCS president in seven years. He took over the system after Peter Hans left in June 2020 to lead the University of North Carolina System. The community college system experienced several leadership transitions during Stith’s tenure.

“The Board thanks Mr. Stith for his service and wishes him well,” Chair Burr Sullivan said in a statement after Stith’s resignation. “The State Board expects to name an experienced interim president in the next few days and will begin a thoughtful and thorough search for a permanent president to lead the NC Community College System.”

Here are the members of the presidential search committee:


  • Dr. Shirley Carraway, from Winterville, was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to Region 6 of the State Board of Community Colleges (SBCC) through June 2027. She previously served as the North Carolina Liaison for the Southeast Comprehensive Center, superintendent for Orange County Schools, and associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Pitt County Schools. She recently served as a trustee at Pitt Community College and currently serves on board of the N.C. Public School Forum.
  • Hari Nath, from Cary, was appointed by the House through 2025. He is a former trustee at UNC and member of the UNC System Board of Governors. He previously served as a volunteer on the governor’s community outreach and constituent affairs committee. 

State Board

  • Interim President Dr. Bill Carver served as president of Nash Community College from 2005 to 2019. Before serving as president there, he was an instructor, director of the small business center, director of business and industry services, dean of continuing education, and vice president of instruction. He also served as interim president of the N.C. Community College System in fall 2020. 
  • Dr. Ray Russell, from western N.C., was appointed to the Board by the governor through June 2023. He is a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives (D-Dist. 93). His career experience includes working as a computer science professor, minister, entrepreneur, business owner, and self-taught meteorologist. He served as campaign chair for the High Country United Way and served on the Middle Fork Greenway Task Force, the Blue Ridge Parkway Association Board, and the ZAP Fitness Board. 
  • Ann Whitford, appointed by the governor through June 2023, served as a trustee on the Carteret Community College Board for 16 years. She has worked in various business roles and is the chair of the Board’s strategic planning and self-evaluation committees.
  • Wade Bryan “Bobby” Irwin Jr., of Sparta, was appointed by the Senate through June 2023. He is an Alleghany County Commissioner.
  • Senator Sam Searcy, of Holly Springs, was appointed by the governor through June 2027 as a member at-large. Searcy is the Chairman and CEO of CliniStart, a tech-enabled clinical life sciences company specializing in solving the rate-limiting aspects of study start-up in global clinical trials. He was elected to the N.C. General Assembly in 2018 and served as a state senator representing NC-17 until 2021.
  • Burr Sullivan, appointed by the House through June 2023, has acted as chair of the State Board since September 2021. Sullivan operated Dorsett Printing Corporation, a manufacturer of packaging products, for 30 years. In May 2021, Sullivan received an honorary degree from Davidson-Davie Community College in recognition for almost 50 years of community service. He previously served as CEO of the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce.
  • LaTasha Bradford, 2022-23 N4CSGA President from Fayetteville, will serve through June 2023. Bradford is also the student body president at Piedmont Community College, where she is in the associate degree of nursing program.

Other members

  • David Heatherly is the president of Coastal Carolina Community College and a former non-voting member of the State Board’s programs committee. He is a member and the treasurer of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents (NCACCP) this year. He served as Coastal’s executive vice president from 2000 to 2016. He joined the college in 1978 as a math instructor and later served as dean of college transfer and vice president for instruction and student services. 
  • Grant Godwin is a board member of the N.C. Community Colleges Foundation. He also serves as current chairman of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Authority and is a member of the N.C. Industrial Extension Service and the N.C. State Additive Manufacturing Center. Godwin held numerous corporate management positions during his career and established Polaris Associates to offer marketing services in advanced and additive manufacturing and community/economic development after retiring. 
  • Grayson Whitt is a trustee at Rockingham Community College (RCC), where he previously served as Board Chair. He has served on the Elon University Athletic Foundation and Alumni Association, RCC Foundation Board, Rockingham County Revenue Bond Board, and UNC-Rockingham Health Care Board of Trustees. He is the vice president of First National Bank.
  • Julie Ryan is the director of governmental affairs for the N.C. Department of Labor. She worked eight years at the N.C. General Assembly as a legislative assistant. Ryan also served as vice president of sales and marketing for a family-owned residential building company serving the Triangle area market.

Correction: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that the General Assembly had to approve the selected search firm. The firm must be approved by the state Department of Administration.

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

Hannah McClellan is EducationNC’s senior reporter and covers education news and policy, and faith.