While teaching at the University of Missouri law school in the 1990s, Tim Wynes realized there was somewhere else he wanted to be — community college.

The law school ran a clinic where domestic violence victims could get legal assistance. While there, Wynes helped a young mother enroll in community college, only possible because day care and financial aid were provided. “I just thought it was cool that there was a place that said, ‘Yeah, this is a student that’s normal to us,’ ” he said.

Wynes is now president of not one, but two colleges — Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) in Rosemount and Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights. He was appointed president at DCTC this summer after serving on an interim basis since 2013. He has been president at Inver Hills since 2010.

While Wynes said the arrangement has its challenges, like balancing his time between two campuses, his dual role saves money and provides a single point of contact for the community. It has also encouraged collaboration between the schools, located just nine miles apart, he said.

Some people ask Wynes if it’s like coaching two neighboring sports teams, but he says it’s not: “They’re not really competing, they’re complementary.”.

Having one president lead multiple colleges isn’t uncommon, said Steven Rosenstone, chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, but this is the first time he’s recommended it.

The original plan was to have Wynes serve as DCTC president during the search for a new leader. But Wynes’ time there was a success, so making him the permanent president “was a no-brainer,” Rosenstone said.

“Tim is a superb leader,” he said.

Two different missions

The two colleges serve the same geographic area, and Rosenstone said he has heard “loud and clear” that it’s been easier for businesses and schools to interact with one set of administrators.

The arrangement saves $760,000 annually, Rosenstone said, because the colleges now have 18 shared positions between them in administration, finance and student support. Wynes’ annual salary is about $173,000.

But the schools remain separate and have different missions. Inver Hills, with an enrollment of 8,000, is geared toward students who will transfer to four-year colleges. DCTC, with 9,000 students, is oriented toward vocational programs.

“They keep their identities, which I think is really important,” Rosenstone said.

One challenge of Wynes’ double duty is dividing time between two campuses on alternating days. “The faculty of both schools and the staffs … like you to be present,” he said. “I don’t always get out and about as much as I should.”

He said he is proud of what he’s accomplished so far, including the launch of a craft brewery program at DCTC. At Inver Hills, he’s most pleased with the library’s renovation two years ago and the creation of a tutoring center, completed without having to borrow money.

Someday, he hopes students can take classes on both campuses, but it could take time to work out faculty issues, he said.

“What I’m trying to do is do the best I can to lead both schools,” Wynes said.