By Kristina Pritchett
The San Clemente Times reached out to candidates running in the water district elections across South Orange County, including the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) and Santa Margarita Water District.
MWDOC services most of Orange County through 28 retail water agencies. MWDOC purchases water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and distributes it to their client agencies, which provides retail water services to the public. Divison 7 covers South Coast Water District, San Juan Capistrano and most of San Clemente. Division 6 covers Talega.
Santa Margarita Water District is the second largest retail water agency in Orange County. They provide water and wastewater services to more than 155,000 customers in the area, including Talega.
The Times asked each candidate to introduce themselves in 250 words. Their responses are listed in the order the candidates will appear on the November ballot.
Municipal Water District of Orange County
Jeff Thomas, Director-Municipal Water District of Orange County
Continuing the free flow of water to our residents at the most economical cost has been my primary focus at MWDOC.
Since 2009, I have been privileged to represent the communities of Irvine, Tustin, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, and Rancho Santa Margarita at MWDOC.
Advocating for transparency with public records and fighting conflicts of interest in the water community have been priorities since I first took office. I will continue the battle against special interests in Orange County who are seeking to shift costs to others.
Finally, I have successfully defeated pension spikes at local and regional water agencies and led the efforts to reduce and eliminate retiree healthcare liabilities.
Following the Orange County Bankruptcy, I was tapped to lead the reform efforts and worked with leaders at the Local, State and National level. Because of my track record in public office, leaders such as Congressman Ed Royce, State Senator John Moorlach, Assemblyman Bill Brough, Lake Forest Mayor Andrew Hamilton, and Tustin Mayor John Nielsen have enthusiastically endorsed my re-election. I am honored that so many respected leaders have recognized my effectiveness for the Orange County water community.
I ask for your support so I may continue to serve the residents of Orange County.
Frank Ury, Mayor, Business Owner
We now use less water in Orange County than we have in decades, yet our yards are browning and our water bills are skyrocketing. It’s time for more responsible leadership, better public engagement and greater transparency at the Municipal Water Board.
Over 70 percent of our Municipal Water District, Seat 6 is south of the El Toro Y, but we have never had a South Orange County representative on the board to support our south county needs. It’s time for this to change.
I have lived in South Orange County for 25 years and I have served on the Mission Viejo City Council for 12 years. I am an electrical engineer by training, and raised my family in South Orange County.
I pledge to:
- Permanently end the self-serving, lavish 401k-retirement program that your current Water Director accepts and supports, because I believe paying for the retirement of a part time representative is wrong, and it goes directly to your water bill.
- Broadcast/webcast board meetings for long overdue transparency.
- Work to make OC Water sustainable by implementing solutions that will better capture runoff just like we did in Mission Viejo, reclaiming over 200,000,000 gallons per year.
- Integrate Intelligent Irrigation Systems to create efficiency and lower costs.
As Mayor and Councilman, I made water policy a top priority for the past decade.
I am endorsed by a long list of respected Orange County policy makers, including our Congresswoman Mimi Walters, State Senator Pat Bates and OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett. A majority of Mayors in the Municipal Water District of Orange County, District 6, including Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor Tony Beall, San Clemente Councilmembers Lori Donchak and Tim Brown, Lake Forest Mayor Pro Tem Scott Voigts, and Santa Margarita Water Directors Betty Olson, Chuck Gibson and Justin McCusker support my campaign.
As a fellow South Orange County resident and taxpayer, I would be honored to have your vote.
Megan Yoo Schnieder, Water Engineer
Megan Yoo Schneider is a native Californian and grew up in Orange County. She is an enthusiastic individual with a life-long passion for water and public health and has devoted countless volunteer hours and her life to the future of water.
Megan has over 12 years of professional and association experience, including serving on two boards of directors, and she possesses a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a Specialization in Environmental Engineering and an M.S. in Engineering with a Concentration in Environmental Engineering. She is also a licensed professional civil engineer in the State of California.
As a dedicated member and leader within a number of organizations, including the Water Environment Federation, the American Water Works Association, the California Water Environment Association, Megan invests much of her time to increase public awareness and educate the younger generations about the importance of water. Megan received numerous awards and accolades for her public outreach endeavors and water-related research, and she is devoted to ensuring the future of local, reliable water supplies for Orange County.
Megan is a passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated individual who will truly serve her community as the MWDOC Division 7 Director.
Evan Chaffee, Business Owner/Consultant
As a lifelong Orange County resident and small business owner, it is important to me that current and future generations have access to safe, reliable and cost effective water. Additionally, my time as a city planning commissioner and public policy advisor will serve as an asset to the board of directors as we address the short and long term water needs of Orange County residents.
As your Director for the Municipal Water District of Orange County, I will devote my efforts toward:
Fiscally Responsible Leadership: It is imperative that the efficient delivery of inexpensive water is accessible to all residents. Without proper planning and consideration, the price for water will go up significantly. I will work toward mitigating increases in price while identifying ways to become more self-sufficient. This will require strategic planning and smart negotiation among water suppliers.
Innovative Technologies: It will be important to review emerging technology and supply options, including desalination, to address direct to consumer as well as emergency supply needs.
Safe, Reliable Water: It is important to pursue new water sources to diversify the water supply while reinforcing responsible emergency planning. Conserving and setting aside a significant supply for the next drought must be a top priority.
Open Communication: As your representative on the board, it is important that we maintain an open dialogue to hear and address your concerns.
I will protect and preserve our precious water resources. I respectfully ask for your support. Please vote Evan Chaffee for the Municipal Water District of Orange County, Division 7.
Richard Gardner, Water Systems Consultant
While working for Fluor, I was able to move to Capo Beach with my young family in the ‘70s. The water districts had provided projects to enable the towns to grow. By conserving water, our area has been able to meet demands of the growing population without really increasing supplies.
Many important decisions will be made regarding the future of water for south Orange County. The agencies must work together to choose the best solutions for our water needs.
The best choice to supply our water future is further water conservation and the California water fix. The California water fix will provide high quality reliable water from the delta without negatively affecting the environment. The state fisheries will not be hurt and greater amounts of electricity will not be required as with other water treatment options. If the California water fix, which is the greatest reliable source of water for the cost, is not approved, we will need to work even harder to bring the local cities and water districts together and provide local water projects to meet our needs. Either way, as your MWDOC director, I will work to get state and federal funding approved for regional water solutions.
Whether you live in San Clemente, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano or the Moulton Niguel Water District, we are over 90 percent dependent on MET for our drinking water. As the only elected water district director, I continue to attend meetings at MET and at the Municipal Water District of Orange County.
Raymond Miller, Registered Professional Engineer
As a water manager and registered engineer in South Orange County, I have devoted my career to providing safe, clean and reliable water to my customers, while keeping costs down. This drought has proven that our water supply has limits, and while there has been a lot of work done to solve this problem, much remains. This Municipal Water District of Orange County position is one of the most important that you will vote for and you need a representative that understands the complexity of water issues.
I was the General Manager of the South Coast Water District for 25 years. I have been involved in many professional water and wastewater organizations, and served as the Chairman of the California-Nevada section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and then as the Vice President of AWWA, the national organization of water professionals. I know water.
I want to work to ensure that there is safe, clean and reliable water not only today, but for our children and our children’s children. It is what I inherited and what I will work tirelessly to pass along. Please vote for me and let my experience work for you. Thank you.
Santa Margarita Water District
Charley Wilson, Director, Santa Margarita Water District
As President of the Santa Margarita Water District’s Board of Directors, I am proud of my record protecting the environment, increasing reliability and protecting water quality. Aggressive efficiency measures, visionary strategic planning and a strong focus on customer service have saved millions of taxpayer dollars and provided a more secure water future for our customers despite the historic drought that has plagued the State over the past few years.
To meet future water reliability needs of the SMWD, my priorities of clean, affordable and reliable water depend on continued strong fiscal policies and sound management of our water resources.
As a resident of South Orange County for more than 30 years, my wife and I chose to raise our family here; there is no other place where we would rather live. South Orange County exemplifies California’s promise, and I am committed to protecting our water resources that are a vital part of our wonderful community.
I am eager and committed to continue my service to this community and leadership with the Santa Margarita Water District. With your support I will continue to find creative, cost-effective solutions to meet the growing needs of our diverse and dynamic community.
Please vote Charley Wilson, SMWD Board of Directors.
Charles “Chuck” Gibson, Director, Santa Margarita Water District
Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) Vice President Chuck Gibson was elected to a four-year term on the Board of Directors in 2012.
In 2013, Gibson was appointed Chair of the Engineering Committee of the Board where he was a leading voice for development of recycled water facilities, groundwater and new storage and treatment facilities. In 2014, he was appointed Chair of the Board’s Finance and Administration Committee where he was instrumental in development of the District’s award winning Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
“Conservation is important and people in South County have done a good job in that area. My top priorities include supporting continued water use efficiencies and ensuring a reliable supply of water through recycling while keeping costs down through productivity improvements and innovation.” For example, Gibson has supported solar energy for district operations – saving $500,000 annually.
Gibson has over 35 years of experience combined in working for major governmental agencies, and in business, including senior manager with a major national consulting firm.
Chuck is a leader in several water industry professional organizations including the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country. He is on the Board of Directors of ACWA’s Region 10 covering Orange and San Diego Counties.
Gibson’s educational background includes a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from UCLA.
Betty H. Olson, Director, Santa Margarita Water District
Thank you, SMWD for reducing potable water use 24 percent reduction last year. As a UCI professor of Environmental Engineering, my career focuses on water quality and quantity, educating future generations and serving on regional, state and local organizations to improve water. I ask for your vote for SMWD director, to continue securing a reliable quality water supply, so important to your family.
SMWD directors and I have increased reclaimed water use to 48 percent in the past four years; insured short-term reliability by purchasing storage in the El Toro reservoir, building Upper Chiquita Reservoir, utilizing groundwater, and completing the Gubernadora multipurpose basin for storm water and irrigation storage. Long-term and emergency reliability projects are:
- Irvine Lake Baker Treatment Plant,
- Drought proofing the San Juan Basin, and
- Linking with regional partners developing local water supplies and
- Lake Mission Project, replacing potable water with advanced treated water.
During the drought as Board President, SMWD provided homeowners and homeowner association’s rebates to update irrigation systems, remove turf and convert potable irrigation to recycled water. With these expenditures, and plans to build Trampas Recycle Reservoir, the District will reach 100 percent wastewater reuse. The district leads in undertaking a project that will slow storm water and recharge the San Juan Basin, beginning to drought-proof our region.
My background and experience is needed in this time of increasing water scarcity. Please vote Betty H. Olson Nov. 8, to continue working for future water development at reasonable costs.
Stanislaw Dziecielski, Retired
Dziecielski did not supply a candidate statement.