Debra Fitzsimons has been appointed acting chancellor for the South Orange County Community College District.

Her appointment came at a special July 5 district board meeting following the retirement of Chancellor Gary Poertner on July 1.

The chancellor acts as chief executive of the district, overseeing its three colleges and district-wide operations, a $700 million budget, and nearly 4,000 employees.

The board will initiate a nationwide search for a permanent chancellor. Fitzsimons has not thrown her hat into the ring for the permanent position. Fitzsimons’ appointment is just the first step. Next, an interim chancellor will be appointed for about six to 12 months while the search for the permanent chancellor is conducted, according to a district spokeswoman.

Fitzsimons has served as vice chancellor of Business Services at the district since 2011, managing areas including fiscal services and facilities planning. She has more than 22 years of educational leadership experience, including at the University of Hawaii. She holds a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in Education, Policy, Planning, and Evaluation with a specialty in Education Finance; a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Slippery Rock University; and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Pennsylvania State University.

Poertner started as chancellor of the district in December 2010. A highlight of his tenure included leadership on the organization’s first integrated, strategic plan.

The district oversees Saddleback College, Irvine Valley College and the Advanced Technology & Education Park.