Trustee Ron Oden says new role is ‘continuation’ of teaching, a role he began in 1990

PALM DESERT — To paraphrase a line from “Jerry McGuire,” Ron Oden had them at “hello.” That is to say the four members of the College of the Desert Board of Trustees.

On the first of several ballots, he earned unanimous support from sitting trustees. And when all was said at done, he handily won the Trustee Area 3 vacancy with a unanimous 4-0 vote. Every trustee embraced him. Every.  Single. One. It was a beautiful sight.

At least one of his opponents embraced him. Outgoing President/Superintendent Martha Garcia congratulated him as well.

He was one of six qualified candidates and one of four to be interviewed. David Powell, one of the finalists for the position congratulated Oden, saying, “The congrats are deserved. He’s a good guy.”

Oden’s answers were direct, succinct and sometimes personal and passionate.

“District Three also has one of the largest African American populations in the Coachella Valley,” he said. “I live in that district. I’m connected with that district. And I’m often the voice of the unheard and underrepresented.” District 3 includes portions of Cathedral City and Palm Springs.

He spoke of the college, its victories and challenges with intimate knowledge. He cited programs with ease, like Black Student Success Center and plEDGE. He was polished, unrehearsed, comfortable, and confident without being arrogant.

Oden replaces Fred Jandt, who resigned effective March 31 due to health concerns. His term runs through 2024.

Fred Jandt

Fred E. Jandt

“I support the board’s selection of Ron Oden.,” Jandt told Uken Report. “I have worked with Ron Oden and know he has experience with community college students and a wealth of experience with public policy. He will ably represent not only the students and citizens of Palm Springs and Cathedral City but also understand the broader role College of the Desert must play in the whole Coachella Valley.”

The unanimous support bodes well for the role Oden can play in potentially unifying the fractured board. He brings maturity and a wealth of experience to the room. He will be another adult in the room.

Oden’s appointment continues the streak of the Trustee Area 3 seat being held by a member of the LGBTQ community since at least February of 2010. Michael O’Neill was appointed in 2010 and won election in 2012. He resigned in December 2015. Jandt was first appointed to the Board of Trustees in February 2016. He was one of eight applicants who applied. He was elected in November 2020. His term was set to expire in 2024.

Oden is a self-described mediator and consensus builder who has worked from one end of the valley to the other.

Taking his oath of office also added a much-needed note of levity.

Board Chair Bonnie Stefan read the words of the Oath and Oden was to repeat the words. All went well as he pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic …”

But he drew a blank when he got to the part in which he was supposed to say, “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter….”

There was pregnant pause.

The timing was comedic. He laughed, and the trustees and audience laughed with him. It was refreshing.

He then completed the oath.

Oden served as mayor of Palm Springs from 2003 to 2007. He was the city’s first Black, openly gay mayor, which garnered both him and the city international recognition.



Image Sources

  • Fred Jandt: College of the Desert
  • Ron Oden: Ron Oden