FOUR CANDIDATES VIE FOR SEAT 5 IN OTAY WATER DISTRICT

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October 13, 2012 (Otay)—Incumbent Otay Water District board member Mark Robak faces three challengers for Seat 5: water manager David Charles, civil engineer Ronald Ripperger, and retired civil engineer Tim Stanton. East County Magazine sent a questionnaire to all of the candidates. Ripperger and Stanton did not respond.  Replies from Charles and Robak are published below.

David Charles, Otay Water District, Seat 5

1. Motivation: What is your motivation for running?

Having worked at the Otay Water District for over 30 years, I feel I can continue to contribute to the success of the organization. My extensive experience in planning, budgeting and engineering will enable me to tackle some of the challenging issues we face with our region’s water supply.

Being a water utility manager with over 35 years of experience in the water industry I will ensure that the District utilizes all available management and operational tools. We need to take advantage of all relevant technologies. Also key is effective collaboration with other entities to improve utility effectiveness and efficiency.

2. Qualifications: What is your professional/career background, and how will it help you in the position for which you are running?

I have a 2-year Associate Degree in Engineering and more than 35 years of experience in the water industry. Additionally, my long tenure at the District gives me valuable insights that will be essential in moving the District in the right direction. I also believe my extensive engineering and planning knowledge coupled with my personal knowledge of the ratepayers' issues and concerns will add value as the Board deliberates to respond to the needs of its ratepayers.

3. Leadership: Describe your view of what leadership as it applies to serving on your water board. To what degree should Board decisions be swayed by public opinion?

Water agencies should strive to understand the needs of the community it serves so that it is simply not a matter of delivering water, but doing so in a way that fits the special needs of its constituents.

I will expect this agency to use effective management tools that are used in the private sector. It must develop and implement strategic goals to become technology oriented, customer friendly and fiscally responsible.

4. Challenges: What are the main challenges you believe your District faces?

Water and sewer rates have increased substantially and I intend to seek alternatives such as Rate Stabilization Plans, increasing the production of recycled water, developing alternate resources of water supply and decreasing the use of potable water for irrigation purposes.

5. Vision: What’s your long term vision for meeting water needs in your District?

Our customers expect us to provide reliable and safe water that protects public health. Their expectation to have their utility provide an efficient and secure supply that also meets their future needs should be a top priority.

Water agencies cannot remain independent. They need to pursue relationships with neighboring agencies and create partnerships with them as well as the private sector to assist them in becoming better able to confront current and future water challenges.

Our water services should be well managed structured and must be responsive to the needs of our community. Elected officials and employees are obligated to receive and respond to the community’s input and advice in our planning process.

6. Implementation: Has your District published a Strategic Plan to implement its goals and visions? Would you please expand on this, and any other ideas you have to implement your vision expressed in the previous question.

I will expect this agency to use management tools that are used in the private sector. It must have strategic goals to be technology oriented, customer friendly and fiscally responsible.

An approach that I would advocate is to partner with other agencies to provide mutual assistance in addressing common issues or problems.

Regional cooperation among water agencies is essential for facilities planning, resources development and emergency response.

Providing security to our precious resource is vital. Staff members must be trained to recognize and respond to threats as well as to identify areas of vulnerabilities.

Water districts must be ready to respond to an emergency and District leaders and staff  need to be properly trained. This will make them effective and efficient when required to respond in an emergency.

7. Rates: Do you believe all water users should pay the same rate, or that some users should subsidize others? Please explain. What is your view of your District’s rate structure?

Rates should be structured and designed appropriately to make the end user pay for their specific use and should not be subsidized by others. I pledge to have a strict fiscal policy regarding water and sewer rate increases.

8.Transparency: What have you done or will do to promote transparency in your district?

Change is inevitable in the water industry and we have an obligation and responsibility to our community to provide a safe, reliable and secure water supply. I will promote an entrepreneurial atmosphere with my fellow board members and work with the entire organization to embrace change and develop a forward-thinking culture.

I will also work hard to develop strategies to nurture public participation at all levels and use public input in all decision making in the District. 

For more on David Charles' candidacy see www.facebook.com/charles4otaywater   

Mark Robak, Otay Water District, Seat 5

1. Motivation: What is your motivation for running?

I am the incumbent and have been on the Board for 8 years. During that time I feel I have done a good job representing the ratepayers.  Many of those ratepayers also feel that way and encouraged me to continue.

2. Qualifications: What is your professional/career background, and how will it help you in the position for which you are running?

I had been on the Padre Dam Board prior to Otay (1996-2000), so I had previous experience. In my profession (commercial real estate) I deal with water and sewer issues on a regular basis. My background is from a private sector perspective, which I bring to the water district.

3. Leadership: Describe your view of what leadership as it applies to serving on your water board. To what degree should Board decisions be swayed by public opinion?

Leadership isn’t doing necessarily what your fellow board members are doing, rather doing the right thing. That is representing the ratepayer’s interests.  Ratepayers want the service provided safely, reliably and at an affordable cost. Those objectives are paramount.

4. Challenges: What are the main challenges you believe your District faces?

1) Keeping water rates affordable; 2) Securing additional supplies as 100% of the water we purchase is from other suppliers (other than what we recycle); and 3) Controlling costs.

5. Vision: What’s your long term vision for meeting water needs in your District?

1) Possibly some ground water (currently taking steps to bring a good sized well into operation); 2) Possibly water from a desalination plant in Rosarito, Mexico (early stages of feasibility); and 3) Potable reuse of the water we currently treat at our reclamation plant, as well as regionally (City of San Diego has a demonstration project in operation).

6. Implementation: Has your District published a Strategic Plan to implement its goals and visions? Would you please expand on this, and any other ideas you have to implement your vision expressed in the previous question.

We do have an active and robust strategic plan. I personally feel the Board should be more involved in it.  As well, that the plan should be more closely aligned with best management practices of the private sector.

7. Rates: Do you believe all water users should pay the same rate, or that some users should subsidize others? Please explain. What is your view of your District’s rate structure?

There should be a basic rate for low water use customers, which we have (1-5 units). From there, it does graduate up in cost per unit depending on water consumption. The basic rate model is designed to encourage conservation, which it by and large achieves. Unfortunately it does have a downside where people with larger water use (from landscaping in particular), may be penalized, even though they may be using the water efficiently.  No question it is a balancing act and we try to do our best to find an equitable solution. I am always open to suggestions of a better way of doing it!

8. Transparency: What have you done or will do to promote transparency in your district?

Shortly after I got on the Board, I had the District start posting their full meeting agendas on the website. So people can see what we are doing if they choose to do so.

We (the Board of Directors) also have our email addresses posted on our website, so people can contact me directly with a concern.

The Board has discussed a number of times in the past about providing video streaming of our meetings.  We have never gotten serious about it, which reasons are not clear to me (shouldn’t be overly expensive). I would still like to pursue that.