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Only one incumbent among those vying for three open seats on community college board

Only one incumbent is seeking re-election to the Portland Community College board this May.

Three seats on the board are up for election on May 21, and voters will choose among five candidates. In Zone 2, which represents North Portland and portions of Columbia County, Tiffani Penson, a current city of Portland employee who previously worked in former Mayor Sam Adams' office, is running to fill the seat currently held by Kali Thorne-Ladd, who is not running again.

Penson works as a supplier diversity officer for Portland. She boasts an endorsement from Portland city Commissioner Amanda Fritz, but doesn't have a candidate committee and says she doesn't plan to spend more than $750 on her campaign.

Penson said PCC provides a "critical connection to opportunity for the people of Portland," and if elected, aims to expand access to education and training, particularly for students of color and those facing barriers.

Leonardo Kendall, a former PCC student and current Portland State University student, also is running for the seat. Kendall works at a hotel in downtown Portland. He says he brings an important and "often overlooked" voice of a current student to the board and commends the college's resources for LGBTQ and minority students, but says the college system can do more to serve those student groups.

Michael Sonnleitner, who is running for re-election to Southeast Portland's Zone 3 seat, is the only incumbent in the race. He was elected in 2015 after retiring from 27 years as a PCC instructor at multiple campuses. Prior to serving on the board, Sonnleitner sat on PCC's Educational Advisory Council.

He faces challenger Jason Young, a business development director for a company that helps colleges develop strategies and models to improve student retention and graduation rates, while lowering costs through educational materials. Young also briefly served as president of Fox College, a private, for-profit two-year vocational college in Bedford Park, Illinois, in the early 2000s.

"I've become very aware and passionate about the impact community colleges have on communities," Young said by phone, noting conversations with Rep. Jeff Reardon, D-Happy Valley, and Reardon's wife, Annette Mattson, who serves on the Mt. Hood Community College board, also motivated him to run.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Alexander Diaz Rios will run unopposed for a seat on the Portland Community College board of directors. Zone 7, which covers a large portion of Washington County, including Hillsboro, Forest Grove and part of north Columbia County, will see newcomer Alex Diaz Rios take over the seat held by 10-year board member Deanna Palm, who is not seeking re-election. Diaz Rios, a high school social studies teacher, is running unopposed for the seat. He previously served on budget committees for the city of Hillsboro and the Hillsboro School District.


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