Frank Chong started work Wednesday at Santa Rosa Junior College, succeeding Robert Agrella to become the fifth president in the college's 94-year history.
For Chong, the occasion marked a return to campus life after two years as deputy assistant secretary for community colleges in the Obama administration.
His position in Washington gave him opportunity to shape policy, but Chong, 54, said he was ready for a break from the Beltway grind.
"I just missed being on campus" he said. "The whole intellectual and cultural activity is inspiring. Ifeel like it keeps me young and sharp."
Previously the president of Laney College in Oakland and Mission College in Santa Clara, Chong had several suitors, he said, but SRJC got his full attention.
It has a stable board, a diverse community and a great location, he said.
His sister, Joyce Chong, recently retired as a program director at Sonoma State University. And his new home in Petaluma puts him less than an hour away from his daughters in San Francisco.
And not least, he said, SRJC has a sterling reputation.
"Isee my job is to make a great college better,"he said.
Still he arrives during uneasy financial times as years of state budget cuts have forced the school to reduce programs and personnel.