Bob Drewel to guide WSU in Everett

EVERETT — Washington State University is tapping one of Snohomish County’s most politically connected figures for help in cementing its presence in Everett.

University President Elson Floyd on Wednesday plans to announce the hiring of Bob Drewel as interim chancellor of what is now known as WSU North Puget Sound at Everett.

Drewel, who starts work April 15, will be counted on to troubleshoot problems encountered as WSU takes over management of the University Center from Everett Community College on July 1.

“Bob understands this region of the state and the needs of its residents better than just about anyone,” Floyd said in a statement. “He is a seasoned and highly skilled administrator known for his ability to collaborate to realize results.”

Drewel, an Arlington resident, retired in December after a decade as executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council. He served as Snohomish County executive from 1991-2003 and before that had a stint as president of Everett Community College.

He said he decided to come out of retirement because this job is an opportunity to make the most of his experience, relationships and a “heartfelt interest in the endeavor” of Washington State University. His appointment is for one year.

“We’ll grow this enormously important institution by working together as a community and with partners wherever we can find them,” he said. “In the process, we’ll give more local talent opportunity to thrive and be better prepared to stoke the economy of the future.”

The University Center is a consortium of six public universities and one private college. Each offers degree programs and collectively they serve hundreds of students on the community college campus and online.

While the transfer of power is a couple months away, WSU is initiating some changes.

There’s a new web site to promote WSU programs on the campus — http://everett.wsu.edu — and work is under way on a new building to house the University Center. And, there’s the new name: WSU North Puget Sound at Everett.

But the transition brings some turbulence.

Western Washington University and the University of Washington are part of the consortium and are concerned their share of enrollment slots may be jeopardized once WSU — also a center member — is fully in command. They tried unsuccessfully to get state lawmakers to make sure their slots are not touched.

Floyd and Paul Pitre, dean of WSU North Puget Sound Dean, insist there’s no intent to alter the relationship with the partners. But leaders of the other universities are wary nonetheless.

Drewel steered clear of the tension, preferring to focus on laying the foundation for a lasting future.

All institutions involved in the center should be proud of the academic programs they deliver, he said.

“We need to make sure they are fashioned in a way that meets the needs of the students and the economy,” he said. “Sometimes process gets ahead of purpose. Our purpose is to provide these services and provide these degrees.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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