The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency met for the first time Tuesday night, when members of two merged now-defunct water boards elected a president and vice president to the new agency’s board.
William Cooper, long-standing member of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, was voted president of Santa Clarita Valley’s brand new all-encompassing water agency.
Maria Gutzeit, president of the Newhall County Water Agency, was voted vice-president the SCV Water Agency.
The agency officially began on Jan. 1, three months after Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 634, which dissolved the existing structure of water delivery in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Under the pre-existing structure, SCV’s water wholesaler – the Castaic Lake Water Agency – sold water to three main water retailers – Newhall County Water District, the Santa Clarita Water Division and Valencia Water Company.
Water will now be delivered to the customers of those three retailers by the new agency.
Water consumers – now identified as residing in one of three newly-defined water divisions of the SCV Water Agency – are expected to notice no difference in the water they receive.
Down to business
On Tuesday, 14 of 15 members of the two merged boards representing the CLWA and the NCWD got down to their first order of business.
Three people were nominated for the position of president: Cooper, Gutzeit and NCWD Vice-President B. J. Atkins.
In the first round of votes no clear candidate emerged with a majority. Cooper received seven votes, while Gutzeit and Atkins received four and three votes respectively.
A second vote for president was held after Atkins announced he would withdraw from running.
Cooper emerged with eight votes, marking the majority with Gutzeit receiving six.
Cooper is a long-time water professional, having worked for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for about 40 years. During that time, he held various posts including the Water Treatment Section Manager overseeing the operations and maintenance of all five Metropolitan Water Treatment Plants that supply about one-half of all the water to 19 million people in Southern California.
Gutzeit has served on the NCWD board of directors since being first elected in 2003. She was elected in 2005 and 2009. She has served as board president in 2005, 2006. 2009 and 2012.
The next order of business for the SCV Water Agency was to elect one of two vice-presidents.
Seven board members were nominated for the vice-president position, but after a couple of votes to find a clear winner, Gutzeit emerged with nine of 14 votes.
The biggest challenge Tuesday’s mega-board encountered was in the attempt to elect a second vice president.
The position proved problematic from the outset of Tuesday’s public meeting
Difficulty began when board members were divided on whether or not to even have a second vice president.
Board member Dean Efstathiou voiced concern about the cost of having a second vice-president, citing comments made prior to the new agency being formed about the change saving money for ratepayers.
“If the board is approving two vice-presidents, I think we’re setting an example here when we’re trying to show that we’re frugal and saving taxpayers money,” he said before the vote was taken approving two vice presidents.
He wasn’t alone in his concerns of money spent by the new agency.
In citing the number of meetings the president and vice president attend in the course of a year, R. J. Kelly said: “It does add some type of financial burden.”
But, the issue of having a second vice-president continued to be controversial Tuesday when some members wanted vice presidents sharing equal status, while others rallied behind a “tiered” structure.
Board member Ed Colley put forward a motion calling for a pecking order when it came to the “first vice president” and the “vice president.”
The motion was struck down in a vote, however, with board members endorsing the idea of two vice presidents holding equal footing.
But, when it came time to elect such a position, however, the mega-board of 14 found itself stymied. The full newly merged mega board has 15 members — Tom Campbell was absent Tuesday.
Three board members were nominated for the position of second vice president: Kelly, Atkins and Gary Martin.
In the first vote, Martin garnered 6 votes, Kelly 4 and Atkins 4, with no majority winner.
The second vote, Martin held on to 6 votes, while Kelly emerged with 6.
Having emerged with just two votes, Atkins withdrew – prompting a third vote. The result: a tie.
Kelly and Martin each garnered seven votes.
At that point, late in the evening, the agency’s newly elected president emerged with a plan to break the log jam.
“May I suggest we wait until all 15 members are present,” Cooper said.
The new agency is expected to elect its second vice-president at its next meeting later this month.
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