Kentucky’s community, technical college system to be headed by ex-GOP gubernatorial candidate
State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles was selected Friday as the next president of the vast Kentucky Community and Technical College System, as the Republican charts a new career path after his unsuccessful bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
“As a former community college student, I’m excited to get started,” Quarles said in a statement. He holds multiple college degrees and is a former state lawmaker who was elected agriculture commissioner in 2015 and won reelection in 2019.
In his next statewide role, Quarles will lead a postsecondary system that spans 16 colleges and more than 70 campuses. Systemwide enrollment of 75,227 is up 7.4% from a year ago. Quarles, who is nearing the end of his second term as agriculture commissioner, said he’s ready to get started in his new job.
“For countless Kentuckians, our community and technical colleges change lives everyday as we not only fulfill career dreams, but also strengthen our state’s workforce needs,” he said, calling the KCTCS system “our state’s most impactful higher education entity.”
Quarles’ selection culminated a national search following the February resignation of Paul Czarapata, who was KCTCS president for nearly two years. Quarles was selected from among three finalists who met with administrators this week and participated in virtual forums with faculty and staff.
KCTCS Board of Regents Chair Barry Martin said Friday that Quarles was the “clear choice to move our system forward,” pointing to his background in education and statewide leadership roles and his connections across Kentucky and in Washington, D.C.
“He’ll be both a tireless advocate and strong communicator to advance our vision,” Martin said.
Quarles ran a hard-charging campaign for governor this year but finished a distant second in the crowded Republican primary in May. The nominee, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, is challenging Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in the November election.
Cameron congratulated his former rival on his new job Friday.
“He has served our state well as our commissioner of agriculture and I know he will do the same as the head of KCTCS,” Cameron said on social media.