As election coverage continues, the Dana Point Times reached out to candidates running in the water district elections across South Orange County, including the Municipal Water District of Orange County, Santa Margarita Water District and South Coast Water District.
Municipal Water District of Orange County services all of Orange County minus Anaheim, Fullerton and Santa Ana through 28 retail water agencies. The district is made up of a seven-member Board of Directors; each is appointed or elected to a four-year term by voters who reside within one of the seven divisions of the service area. 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.
The Times asked each candidate to state who they were, what they wanted to see the board do if elected, and any additional information they believed the public should know under 250 words.
Below is each of their responses in the order they 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 Schneider, 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.