Grace Mitchell, former Cuesta College president and volunteer, says goodbye

Grace Mitchell, former president of Cuesta College and a longtime local volunteer, moved to Marin County this week to be close to her four children and grandchildren.

Mitchell, 76, said she will continue to work part-time as a consultant developing community college educational master plans in California. She began doing that after retiring in 1999 as Cuesta’s president, a job she started in 1989.

“Working at Cuesta and working with people in the community has been the most satisfying experience in my professional life, no doubt,’’ she said. “I’ve made very good friends and I will miss them. But at this point in my life, it’s transition time and time to be with my family.’’

Mitchell cut back her volunteer commitments to care for her husband, Ernest H. “Ernie’’ Berg, who died in May.

She has remained active with the French Hospital Community Board and the Prado Day Center, which helps the homeless.

Mitchell declined to comment on Cuesta’s current challenges other than to say that college leaders will do what’s necessary to review the issues and change what’s needed.

President David Pelham announced his resignation last week, saying he is “not the best person to lead Cuesta College.’’ He has accepted a job directing a college in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

“Cuesta College has been and will continue to be one of the best community colleges in the state,’’ Mitchell said.

“They’re having tough times now, partly because California doesn’t seem to value its educational system as much as other things and doesn’t provide the kind of steady dependable support that it should — and partly because they’re having some internal difficulties.”

But, she added, the faculty and staff remain, and they’re good, “and the problems the college is having will be resolved, and they will march on.’’

— Sandra Duerr

Landscaper honored by industry group

Madrone Landscapes of Atascadero was recently recognized for the “Best Residential Landscape” among 140 entries at the California Landscape Contractors Association 2009 Statewide Trophy Awards held in Las Vegas.

The winning residential landscape, set on a hilltop in Paso Robles, was created by Woodruff Construction of Templeton and landscaped by Madrone Landscapes in 2007. The hilltop garden uses sustainable principles and native and drought-tolerant plants.

— Julia Hickey