By CLAIRE ST. JOHN
The Tuolumne and Calaveras county representative for the Yosemite Community College District, Joe Mitchell died Friday evening in an automobile accident on Highway 88 near Clements.
Mitchell was 55 years old.
He had been Tuolumne General Hospital's administrator for seven years, until 2001, when he took a position as a health care executive in Hollister.
Most recently, he was working for Casey Consulting at a Willows hospital.
Mitchell was driving his Honda Accord home to Sonora from Willows when he stopped at a stop sign on westbound Highway 88. According to the California Highway Patrol, at 7:10 p.m. he pulled out onto westbound Highway 12 into the path of a Honda Civic driven by a 17-year-old Valley Springs boy. Mitchell's car was broadsided. He was taken by air ambulance to San Joaquin General Hospital and died before midnight, the Stockton CHP office reported.
The other driver suffered minor injuries, the CHP reported.
Randy Ott, a friend living in St. Cloud, Minn., said he remembers Mitchell as a man involved with both his family and community.
"What a super guy he was, and what an unfortunate set of circumstances," Ott said. "He was just a well-rounded, talented, gifted person. I know I will miss him."
Mitchell served on the YCCD board for about six years, Columbia College President Dr. Jim Riggs said.
"He was a very bright, intelligent man and a very good listener, which you really need in a good statesman," Riggs said. "He did a really good job of representing the rural communities of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties."
After being re-elected to the college board in November, Mitchell had said he hoped to urge expansion of Columbia College's campus to make room for growth, and to make the college more accessible to students.
"Community colleges are geared for student success," Mitchell said in a November interview. "I want to get that word out and let more people realize their dreams."