DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College board members made it official Thursday, as they held a special meeting to approve a three and half year contract with Joe Odenwald to be the college’s eighth president.

Board members chose Odenwald, 37, to be the new president at their October meeting after interviewing a field of four internal candidates. He is currently the vice president of student services, a post he’s held for two years since coming from Louisiana State University.

The three and a half year contract starts Jan. 1, 2020, and runs through June 30, 2023, to align with the college’s fiscal year, according to a college news release. The contract calls for an initial base salary of $166,550 plus health care, retirement and other fringe benefits. He will also be eligible for salary increases at the same rate as other college employees.

The salary and compensation package was proposed by the board’s compensation committee made up of board President Tom Jerdon, plus members Beth Cripe and Rebecca Moore. The committee presented compensation information they compiled from national and state sources to the rest of the board in October.

“Board members have spent three weeks reviewing the report provided by the president’s compensation committee with the goal of crafting a fair and competitive contract,” Jerdon reported. “Odenwald’s contract provides for a base salary of $166,550, as well as health care, retirement contributions and other fringe benefits common to presidents’ contracts.”

“This salary and benefits package is lower than national averages and completely in line with the state data, as well as being commensurate with local community colleges, paying a little more than Glen Oaks Community College and a little less than Lake Michigan College.”

Information presented to the board showed that the national average salary for community college presidents is $205,379, while the state average salary for community college presidents is $176,359. In Southwest Michigan, the LMC president receives a base salary of $172,958, while the Glen Oaks president gets $166,783 in base salary.

With other compensation and benefits added, Odenwald will be paid $196,800 a year, compared to $189,783 for the Glen Oaks president and $198,958 plus mileage outside the district for the LMC president. College officials noted that Glen Oaks is half the size of SMC.

Odenwald succeeds David Mathews, the college’s longest serving president (18 years). Mathews announced in August that he would be retiring at the end of 2019 after working a total of 22 years with the college.