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Santa Rosa Junior College is regularly recognized as one of the best community colleges in the country, a tribute to its faculty, staff and leadership.

With its wide range of certificate programs, the junior college is a natural destination for high school graduates looking to enter the workforce, and it’s a lifeboat for anyone forced to contemplate a career change. It’s also a cost-effective transition for students planning to pursue a four-year university degree.

As its 100th anniversary approaches in two years, SRJC is embarking on an ambitious $410 million construction program to upgrade facilities and restore heritage buildings on its main campus to serve students for another century.

But centennial celebrations could be muted if the junior college doesn’t quickly reverse an unanticipated drop in full-time enrollment that threatens to cut state funding by $3.2 million.

Meeting these challenges will require creative and energetic leadership, and three impressive candidates — incumbents Rick Call and Don Edgar and newcomer Mariana Martinez — are running in the Nov. 8 election for two seats representing Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Cotati on the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees.

Choosing among them wasn’t easy. But we believe Rick Call and Mariana Martinez are best suited to help guide the school in this challenging time.

Call, 67, who owns local auto and industrial parts stores, is the board’s dean, having served for 24 years. His institutional knowledge and ties to the school run deep, as an alumnus and the son of a longtime trustee. Call also is the board’s expert on campus facilities and infrastructure, and his continued presence on the board will help ensure that bond funds are spent wisely.

By personal background and professional experience, Martinez is an advocate for students, especially those who don’t come from a long tradition of higher education. She grew up in Roseland, graduated from Elsie Allen High and became the first member of her family to earn a college degree. Martinez went on to earn a doctorate in education policy and, at 35, she is a research coordinator and lecturer at Sonoma State University.

She wants to foster closer ties between SRJC and area high schools, and she wants to ensure that there is a smooth path for students who plan to transfer to UC or CSU. Students often spend several years in community college, and she is calling for closer tracking to ensure that they are making progress toward a certificate, associate’s degree or to transfer. “High school is not enough anymore,” Martinez said. She’s right, and it’s vital that students are able to complete career training in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Edgar, a lawyer and SRJC alumnus, is the third candidate. A two-term incumbent, he is currently president of the SRJC board and serves on the state Community College Board of Trustees. His affection for the school and his dedication are obvious. He’s done a fine job.

But sometimes change is beneficial. A new president, Frank Chong, came on board in 2012, and three new board members were elected in 2014. They’re working to restructure the board itself, carving the 270,000-resident central district represented by Call, Edgar and Dorothy Battenfeld into three districts, which will have one representative each.

SRJC can benefit from new ideas and institutional knowledge, new faces and tested leaders. In this election, The Press Democrat recommends Rick Call and Mariana Martinez for the SRJC board.