ROCK SPRINGS – For the first time in more than 28 years, Western Wyoming Community College has begun a semester with a new Vice President for Administration. Powell native Sheldon Flom, formerly the finance director and interim VP for Administration at Northwest College, assumed his new duties on Jan. 5.
Flom, 54, succeeds outgoing VP Marty Kelsey, who announced last year his intent to retire at the end of 2014. To assist with Flom's transition, Kelsey will continue to serve in the position of Executive Administrative Officer at Western through July 2015.
Flom said it was his predecessor's reputation for running an efficient, buttoned-down financial operation at Western that helped to make the position so appealing. Having known Kelsey for eight years, and being familiar with his sterling reputation in Wyoming’s higher education circles, Flom said he was confident that he would be well-positioned to build on that success.
"I knew he ran a good ship," Flom said of Kelsey. "From a financial perspective, coming into a position like this at an established institution where someone is retiring, and you're in a good financial place, and you don't have any problems with any books, that is the way to do it."
And, as an eight-year veteran of Wyoming higher education, Flom understands how college finances function in this state, so his learning curve is not steep.
"I don't have to learn the system," he said. "I just have to learn the College, how the culture is here and how we operate."
Flom said he was also familiar with Western's reputation as an institution engaged in student success initiatives such as 16 to Succeed. All this made Western a campus that Flom very much wanted to join.
"With respect to student success, Western is, I am guessing about three, four or five years ahead of where Northwest is," he said. "They've got some really good programs in place, and that really interested me. After learning about the Student Success Initiative, and how that's trying to get all people on campus to help support student success, which is what we should be doing, it really interested me and excited me that that is the way the campus is headed."
Flom was also familiar with Sweetwater County; his brother's family has lived in Green River for 20 years. He also has a nephew living locally who invited Flom and his wife, Holly, to stay at his home until they get settled. The Floms have three daughters, the youngest of whom, Alex, currently attends NWC.
A Powell, Wyoming native, Flom holds bachelor's degrees in business administration and accounting, and a master's degree in business administration, all from the University of Wyoming. But he earned his first college degree from NWC, so he appreciates firsthand the value that two-year colleges bring to students in Wyoming.
"I understand what community colleges can do for an individual," he said. "To be honest, if I'd gone straight into the university, I probably wouldn't have made it. I just didn't have the skills and the exposure, so I needed those two years working closely with the faculty and the mentoring they can give you, in order to go on."
Flom spent the first 10 years of his professional career working in Powell at a Ford/Chrysler dealership, for which he served as general manager and part-owner with his father. He followed that experience with a brief stint in insurance, which taught him that his real interest lie not in selling but in working the numbers. After completing his accounting degree, Flom went into public accounting in Powell before relocating to Ketchikan, Alaska, where he handled accounting duties for a large management firm with interests in contracting, truck rentals, and even a shipyard.
"After four years I became the CFO for that company," Flom recalled. "The shipyard had a chance to build a vessel for the Navy, an experimental landing craft. And in order to qualify for that, I had to design a cost accounting system that would capture costs according to governmental cost-accounting standards. Those standards are really pretty close to what you would have for grant accounting that the state requires. And so not only did I have to design it, I had to write up a proposal manual and then defend it against the Department of Defense Auditing Agency. Then, when the contract started, I was working directly with the Office of Naval Research on the cost-accounting portion of this contract. It started out as a $20 million contract, and that was the design phase. I left when it was somewhere around a $40 million contract. It wound up being $75 million.
"I was working with a whole bunch of different people - admirals, captains, senators. It was just really good experience. Living in Ketchikan was a great experience both professionally and personally," he added.
Flom returned home to Powell to accept the finance director's position at his alma mater. He spent his last 18 months there serving in dual capacities as finance director and interim vice president.
Another reason Flom chose to join Western, he said, is because he prefers working at smaller institutions where he has the chance to interact with students in an educational capacity.
"I always put out the offer that if anyone needs help with an accounting project or business project, they can come see me," he said. "Once or twice a year I'll get to work with students on a project, and that's really rewarding."