By Kyler Peterson
After 17 years of dedication to Cuesta College, Toni Sommer said her farewells last month as an accomplished vice president of administrative services who took part in the largest funding bond Cuesta has seen since the 1970s.
Sommer faced numerous obstacles during her 17-year career at Cuesta, the most challenging being the budget cuts in recent years.
“I have been working on the budget for the last seven years, making sure the district remains solvent,” Sommer said as she thought back to the trials and tribulations of an economy in recession.
Cuesta’s budget has been cut seven times in the last six years; one year alone saw three separate cutbacks reducing the budget by 18 percent since 2008.
After years of scarcely making ends meet, Sommer and the San Luis Obispo County Community College District witnessed their biggest victory this last November when voters approved the $275 million bond known as Measure L.
“It’s very hard in a large organization to have that flexibility, but we were able to do it as a team,” said Sommer, who credited her father for the business skills she learned as a child. She also lauded the hard work and dedication of former director of fiscal services Christopher Green, who has taken her place as interim vice president.
After helping pave the way for Cuesta’s foreseeable future, Sommer’s next destination will be Idaho with her husband at her side. She intends to help grow his wholesale plant grocery business, become active in the community, all while planning where she will be traveling next.
Born in San Diego, Sommer moved to Hawaii at the age of 3, where she soon realized her business aspirations.
“I have been entrepreneurial since age 12,” said Sommer, who started a window washing business at that age with two of her close friends. While her business partners wanted to buy horses, Sommer saved her hard earn pay to travel the world.
Sommer has been to over 30 different countries and has visited each of the seven continents.
Before travelling the world, Sommer started working at a sewing and patterns business in Honolulu at age 19 while attending University of Hawaii for a B.A. in economics.
Sommer furthered her education at Chaminade University of Honolulu where she earned her M.B.A. in Business Administration and then went onto California State Polytechnic University of Pomona where she received her Teaching Certificate.
In 1984, Sommer began her first official role in education at William Workman High School in La Puente where she taught business for two years. Then in 1986, she received her first full-time, tenure track post teaching business at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut Creek. She began running a Small Business Development Center for L.A. out of the same college four years later.
In the July of 1998, Sommer began working at Cuesta as the dean of vocational education. Soon after, she became the vice president of administrative services.
This month, Sommer passed the VP torch to Christopher Green, former director of fiscal services and a 13-year employee of Cuesta College.