The San Lorenzo Valley Board of Directors will look completely different after the election. One of the more hotly contested races in the Valley ended with all three open seats for the SLVWD Board of Directors going to the non-incumbent challengers.
As of Nov. 26, Boulder Creek resident, Bob Fultz, led all candidates, earning the support of 19.83 percent of SLVWD residents who cast a ballot — 5,918 votes in all. Following Fultz, Lompico resident, Lois Henry earned 19.21 percent, 5,732 votes in all, and Ben Lomond resident, Steve Swan earned 18.79 percent, 5,607 votes in all. Election results are officially certified on Dec. 6, but as of Friday, 71.90 percent of the total votes for the county had been counted, according to Santa Cruz County Election Department. Fultz, Henry, and Swan, all the projected winners, will be sworn in as new board members at the Dec. 13 regular board of directors meeting. The three challengers upset the incumbent candidates, Gene Ratcliffe, Chuck Baughman, and John Hayes.
In their campaign as a slate of three, “Vote Three if you Agree” Fultz, Henry, Swan, made efforts to engage with the community on the issues they viewed as a top priority for the water district. Throughout the election cycle, Fultz, Henry, and Swan hosted community meet and greets, held up signs on the street, and continued to attend monthly board of directors meetings.
“We were trying to talk about facts, not personalities. The incumbents kept saying: ‘We want to stay the course,’ but they offered no vision on what they were going to do,” Fultz said. Fultz stated one key highlight for him during the campaign this year was standing by the highway holding up signs and waving to oncoming traffic.
“There is no polling here, but you get a sense of what people are thinking by engaging with them,” Fultz said. “I think there was this overwhelming sub-current of people wanting something different and this was an opportunity for people to get significant change.”
Swan added he was impressed at the organization of the campaign, using a variety of platforms including radio, print, and social media. “I found the campaign to be very interesting, exciting, and surprising,” Swan said. “We were early in our efforts.”
Fultz, who works as an independent consultant for high-tech companies and serves as chief financial officer and head of product development for a start-up company in Silicon Valley, previously ran for the SLVWD Board of Directors in 2014 but was unsuccessful. This time around, Fultz led all six candidates with the most amount of votes.
Fultz, Henry and Swan all agree one of the most pressing concerns is to address the district’s budget. “The first thing to do is look at the budget and see where we are and what money is being spent,” Henry said. “We have to look at the budget and see if we can make some cuts.”
Henry, long-time resident of Lompico, spent 30 years serving as chief executive officer of the Watsonville Federal Credit Union and served eight years on the board of directors of the Lompico Water District from 2008 to 2016 through the merger with SLVWD.
The trio throughout their campaign discussed the desire to reevaluate the district’s finances and encourage transparency with the ratepayers.
“We want to have information available to the ratepayers, not say look at all the stuff we are doing, but give the context behind what we are doing,” Fultz said.
Swan, a resident of Ben Lomond, also previously ran, but was unsuccessful, for the SLVWD Board in 2012. According to Swan, there needs to be change to address the concerns in the Grand Jury report and to improve service to the customers.
“I want to freeze any future rate increases and go through the budget and cut the wasteful expenses to hopefully be in a position to actually reduce future water rates,” Swan said. “Another priority we mentioned was reducing our legal expenses and settling legal liabilities, which have been totally out of proportion for a water district of our size. And finally, completing a detailed inventory of the existing infrastructure, so that comprehensive plans can be created and expenses and reserves calculated so that the district can return to better financial health.”
While the three challengers earned the most votes in the election, it is not lost on Fultz, Henry, or Swan the importance of listening to all of the ratepayers and try to bring civility and transparency. “We must treat them with respect and we must listen,” Henry said. “Previously that is not what was happening.”
Fultz stated the concept of the three challengers running together proved useful in the election.
“I think that was a significant factor,” Fultz said. “That has been the tradition in the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, to have the incumbents run as a slate. Typically, however, the challengers have not run as a three-person slate. So I think us running as a slate had a lot to do with it.”
After the election is certified and the three are sworn in as board members serving a four-year term, the work begins.
“Good intentions are great, but you get measured by what you do,” Fultz said. “So that is why we need to get all the plans lined up that have been neglected so we can tell people we are serious.”
The “challenging” slate’s campaign was managed by Barbara Nahrwold, who stated “There’s art and science to the role of a campaign manager….their expertise comes in knowing the right questions to ask the team in order to define, architect, and execute the best, most effective integrated marketing campaigns.”
For more information on Fultz, Henry, and Swan: https://www.vote3ifyouagree.com/.
For the most up to date election results: http://sccounty01.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/ElectionSites/ElectionResults/Results?id