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MATTOON -- Keeping tuition low and tailoring classes to meet the needs of area students and employers are among the top priorities for candidates in Tuesday's Lake Land College Board of Trustees election.

Incumbents Dave Storm of Effingham and Meg Yargus Steward of Marshall, and challenger Kevin Curtis of Mattoon are running for two available six-year terms on the board. In addition, newcomer Denise Walk of Teutopolis is running uncontested for a four-year, unexpired term on the board.

Kevin Curtis, 63, retired in 2010 after teaching drafting, communications and other courses for 20 years at Mattoon High School. He continues to farm corn and soybeans. Curtis said one reason he is seeking election is to provide representation for the area farming community on the board as it works with the college's agriculture division.

Curtis also said Lake Land is a tremendous asset to the community and he wants to be involved with it. He said his experience in education, including serving with the Coles County Education for Employment System, would help him on the board. Curtis said he also has first hand experience from his children utilizing Lake Land's high school dual credit program.

If elected, Curtis said he would work to keep tuition affordable and to expand job skills training program at Lake Land. The candidate said he also would like to see Lake Land reach additional transfer agreements with universities in the region and do more outreach to area high school students.

"There are a lot of students out there that don't realize the full advantage of what Lake Land has to offer to them," Curtis said.

Meg Yargus Steward, 35, was appointed to the board in October 2017. She is the national account director with AGI Yargus in Marshall and is a past president of the Lake Land Foundation Board. Steward said she is running for election to help ensure that Lake Land's curriculum continues to evolve to meet the needs of area students and the job market.

Steward said she has brought her experience with strategic planning in the corporate world to the Lake Land board, along with years serving on community and agriculture boards. She  joined her family’s local manufacturing business in 2009 and has been actively engaged in the management, budget planning, and operations since then.

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A key issue facing universities is the financial uncertainty of operating a public college in Illinois, Steward said. Lake Land has effectively adjusted to this financial strain, she aid.

"I believe candidates must come to the table ready to continue the hard work of keeping our programs running in spite of our budgetary issues," Steward said.

Dave Storm, 64, has served on the board since being elected six years ago. He retired two years ago from HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham after working for 38 years as the chief financial officer there. He now works as a staff member at Johnson Funeral Home in Effingham and as a driver for Effingham Builders Supply.

Storm said he has enjoyed his time as a trustee, including working with the administration and faculty to help Lake Land weather the state's extended budget impasse. He said they cut costs and spent reserve funds while maintaining affordable, high-quality education for students.

"At no time was it ever lost that the students come first," Storm said.

As a trustee, Storm said he has been glad to see Lake Land expand its job training for manufacturers and its courses for the state prison system. If re-elected, Storm said he will help keep Lake Land competitive for the shrinking number of downstate students and carryout the planned expansion of the Kluthe Center in Effingham and other campus projects.

The four-year unexpired term resulted from Yargus Steward being appointed to fill the vacancy created by trustee Robert Luther’s resignation.

Denise Walk, 49, said she decided to run for this term to put her professional experience into service for Lake Land as the college continues to grow. She is a software engineer for the Patterson Companies in Effingham and co-owns Walk Auto Body in Teutopolis with her husband, Doug. Walk said she has firsthand experience with job training needs in both fields that Lake Land can help meet.

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Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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