SOCCCD chancellor shares tales of his life


Julie Tran

Gary Poertner is the new chancellor of the South Orange County Community College District, but not many people get to see him on a daily basis.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Poertner lived an idyllic childhood where he played numerous sports with the kids in his area. Basketball was a favorite sport that he liked to play and he participated in his high school’s football team. In addition, Poertner was also a member of the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts.

Majoring in business, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University. Poertner earned an MBA from Cal State Long Beach. Upon graduation in 1973, Poertner worked at El Camino College as the director of purchasing.

In 1999, Poertner came to south Orange County and gained the position of deputy chancellor of SOCCCD. Four years later the previous and controversial chancellor of SOCCCD Raghu Mather’s submitted his resignation. With Mather’s absence, Poertner was appointed the role of chancellor, the district’s highest ranking administrator.

In light of the recent accreditation issues, Poertner said that it was a shock to receive the warning.

“I was surprised to receive the accreditation warning status since I wasn’t here when [the accreditation team] were here to do the report,” Poertner said.

However, he said that the accreditation warning will have no effect on the students and both Saddleback and Irvine Valley College will retain their statuses as accredited colleges.

Among some of the role models he looked up to when it came to his job, Poertner recalled a few of the people he worked with during his career. Firstly, he said that his superior at El Camino College was a significant influence on the way he works. According to Poertner, his boss possessed great integrity and was very organized with his duties.

His second role model was Richard Haake, who was a superintendent of a high school district as well as a former co-worker of Poertner. For him, Haake was extremely dedicated to his work as well as the people surrounding him.

His third role model was Cedric Sampson, who was a former chancellor of SOCCCD. Poertner admired him for his high expectations and his dedication to back up workers.

“He was a wonderful guy to work for because he supported others while pushing them to succeed,” Poertner said.

With the presence of a new chancellor, there is an opportunity for future improvements that can aid the district. Don Mineo, Classified Senate President Elect, has high hopes for Poertner and his abilities.

“Gary brings a lot of stability back to our district,” Mineo said. “His wealth of knowledge and finances will help the district with its financial stability.”

From his experiences working in the SOCCCD, Poertner said that he enjoyed working in a field that he’s known for his entire life.

“I enjoyed working here for the past few years and I’ve made so many wonderful friends in the district,” Poertner said.

As for his living preferences, Poertner said that he loves living in southern California.

“Missouri is a good place to be from, but the Midwest is not in the forefront of trends,” said Poertner. “When I came to California, there was so much more people here and I noticed that most of the trends start here.”

In a comical manner, he also said that the weather in California is a lot more pleasant than the weather in Missouri.