As just a regular homeowner and rate-payer, Wade Leishman took a special interest in the Scotts Valley Water District (SVWD) when rate hikes were discussed toward the end of 2016. Leishman started attending SVWD board meetings regularly and got up to speed on the issues behind the rate increase. Before long, Leishman impressed the district directors with his grasp of the issues for them to appoint him as a board director in July 2017. The seat was unexpectedly left vacant by the death of long-serving director Ken Kannegaard.
After the last year of serving on the board of directors of the SVWD, Leishman is now engaged in his first campaign for election to one of the three open seats contested in the November election. There are four candidates for these three seats, with three incumbents running, including Leishman.
“There’s a lot work still to be done,” Leishman said about what motivates him to run for election to the board. “Many of the projects discussed as reasons for the rate increase haven’t happened yet, particularly the recycled water recharge project, and I want to see that and other projects through to completion.”
Leishman was referring to a long-term project looking into the effectiveness and financial feasibility of injecting treated recycled water back into the Santa Margarita aquifer to help re-charge and supplement groundwater supplies. The environmental analysis of this project is currently underway.
Leishman explained that several capital improvement projects got “pushed back” when Well 7A, located at the Orchard Run Treatment Facility, collapsed in August 2017 after 25 years of service as the district’s top producing well. A new well needed to be drilled, on an emergency basis, which put many regularly planned projects on hold, because of this, the district is currently trying to “catch-up” on scheduled projects.
“I feel I’ve been representing the average customer on the board and just want to continue doing that; representing the normal family guy who is worried about how much water costs, making sure it’s clean, and comes out of the tap when I turn on the faucet,” Leishman said.
Leishman highlighted one of his key priorities as a board director is to increase community engagement and awareness of the work the district does and the decisions made by the board. “I get so tired of seeing empty chairs at our board meetings, and will look for more ways to encourage community involvement. Part of my role is to communicate complicated issues, and translate them into what I hope is normal language for our regular water customers,” Leishman said.
This community outreach includes the discussion of issues surrounding growth and water supply, especially with the recent spotlight on the Town Center Project. “I want to be part of the discussion about growth, and helping educate our customers about what the district can and can’t do. I try to separate my own personal opinions about growth and focus squarely on my responsibilities as a board member,” Leishman said.
Related to community outreach, Leishman strongly supports the district’s roll-out of new, “information rich” water meters, in which water use information can be accessed by both the ratepayer and the SVWD immediately. Part of an information system-wide upgrade called “Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI), the new meters provide real time data, and alerts, on water use to customers as well as district operations, through an app on a smart phone or via a website. Customers can receive email alerts of usually high water use- which normally indicates a leak- which can then be responded to, by both the district and the customer, much faster than in the past.
“The amount of water simply lost to leaks is, I think, somewhat staggering. We lost over a million gallons to leaks in the month of August alone, and several million gallons every year,” Leishman said. A strong believer in the power of information for customers, Leishman supports the AMI and meter replacement project for many reasons, but emphasizes that millions of gallons can be saved with real time alerts of leaks from the new meters. “We need to use and conserve water as smart as we can,” Leishman said.
Another motivating factor for Leishman is a general commitment to give back to the community in which he feels truly at home. “I feel it’s important to serve the community- I absolutely love Scotts Valley- and I want to serve as an example to my two kids of what community service looks like,” Leishman explained.
A resident of Scotts Valley for the last 12 years, Leishman, 44, worked as a senior IT manager for Seagate for 19 years, followed the company to Cupertino when it moved from Scotts Valley, and recently left the company to pursue his own career “on this side of the hill.” Leishman is married with twin daughters, currently attending Scotts Valley Middle School.
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