MASON CITY — The North Iowa Area Community College Board of Directors Thursday night approved the appointment of the current chief administrator of the Central Rivers Area Education Agency to be the college’s next president.

Joel Pedersen comes to NIACC after serving as the head of the 53 member school districts Central Rivers AEA since last year. Prior to that, he was the superintendent of the Cardinal Community School District based in Eldon in southeastern Iowa for 13 years. He was named the Iowa Superintendent of the Year in 2020.

Pedersen tells KGLO News he’s blessed to have the opportunity to be the next NIACC president. “I’m a graduate of Indian Hills Community College in the Ottumwa area, and just the opportunity at this point in my career to be able to work with families, transform an area, and come to a place that has such a great reputation is just so exciting, and I look forward to working with the board, students, family, and get to know everybody.”

Pedersen talks about what made NIACC attractive to him.  “When I was doing my research and talking with people, the rich history of NIACC, over 100 years of educating students, making this region better. I look at the stability, look at the leadership that Dr. Schulz has provided. I looked at the campus, I just started looking at everything. You can just list everything and it just seemed like it was a perfect fit, and I threw my name in there and went through the process. On the day that I interviewed, I met so many great people that love NIACC and love this area, the service area.”

Pedersen says he enjoyed his tour of campus during his interview.  “My initial thought is that it’s just beautiful. You walk through the ponds, the area, the buildings are beautiful, many of them are new. So I just think that it’s they are always looking to be cutting edge, they’re always looking to make improvements. So I just think it’s a great place and I look forward to bringing my own maybe touch on it over time and making it just better and a great place.”

Board member David Steffens chaired the presidential search committee. He tells KGLO News that Pedersen’s enthusiasm was what impressed him the most.  “Really all the candidates in the final five were very qualified, so that makes it very tough, but when he came here for his day of personal interviews and forums, he just wowed everybody here. We liked his enthusiasm. We liked the story he told us about graduating first in his family from community college, so he understands why community colleges are here, and I just thought he had an outgoing enthusiasm, and that made him my first pick.”

Steffens says Pedersen has big shoes to fill with the retirement of current president Steve Schulz. “As you can tell, Steve has a lot of enthusiasm and energy too, so we were really hoping to find somebody with a similar energy and just outgoingness. You just don’t always find that in academic circles, it’s kind of rare. When we saw that, we thought this would be the easier candidate to transition behind Steve, because Steve has kind of set the bar high for that, and we’ve been benefiting from that for 11 years now.”

Steffens says Pedersen’s experience being the head of an Area Education Agency will benefit NIACC.  “He already had a lot of relationships because he was with the AEA for a year with our local superintendents already, so that’s a big plus for our enrollment from high schools, so it seemed like a good fit.”

Pedersen will start his new position on July 1st. Current president Steve Schulz announced earlier this school year that he was retiring after more than ten years of service to the college.