Experience That Matters

By Woody Barrett   |   October 11, 2018

by Woody Barrett, Dana Newquist, Ken Coates, Brian Goebel and Cori Hayman

The Montecito Water and Sanitary Districts are defined as special districts, each led by a five-person, publicly elected board of directors. According to the handbook for special district governance and operations, board members must “serve the best interests of the community, provide services that are essential to the community, and represent the people who placed you in office.” The handbook goes on to define board member roles, including the requirements to “establish strategic goals and objectives and set the direction of the District.”

Having closely observed the governance of the Montecito Water and Sanitary District Boards in recent years, we have concluded that the incumbent board members of these two special districts have not served the best interests of the community because they have failed in their basic role of providing strategic plans and direction for their districts.

The Water District Board failed to file the State-mandated urban water management plan in 2010 and again in 2015. Only after the election of new directors Tobe Plough and Floyd Wicks two years ago was a plan finally filed, enabling the Water District to qualify for grants and attractive state financing for water security projects. For years, the Water Board has resisted cooperating with other districts on wastewater recycling and working on other new sources of supply.

The Sanitary District Board has a “master plan” from 2004 that is a site plan for buildings, not a strategic plan. It was prepared long before the drought in a different world. Although times have changed, their plan has not. 

Indeed, the incumbent directors continue to point to the “Master Plan” to defend their decision to prioritize a $3.5-million new building over wastewater recycling. Only after it became clear that the incumbents are facing opposition in the upcoming election did they spring into action and pass a resolution in support of recycling wastewater, and approve a project to upgrade the treatment of a small amount of wastewater so that it could be used on the District’s own yard. This is too little, too late.

These planning failures at both special districts have resulted in water supply insecurities for the community, dramatic increases in charges to customers for essential services, and wastewater discharge into the ocean off Butterfly Beach that is inconsistent with our community’s values.

The incumbent directors claim that their long experience is vital, but that experience has not resulted in satisfactory performance by the two districts. In fact, the performance has been unsatisfactory, and the strong support we are receiving from the community indicates that our view is widely shared.

In contrast to appeals based on tenure, five of us have come together as members of the Water Security Team. We are running for seats on the Montecito Water and Sanitary boards, and we offer government and professional experience that is directly relevant to the work of both. The five of us have more than 100 years of experience in the real world of business where there are competitors, customers to be satisfied every single day, constantly changing conditions, complexity far beyond the single-product monopolies of water and sanitary, and the need to change plans continuously. We know how to be successful in leading businesses of very different types, and we have the track record to prove it.

Incumbent complacency is no longer acceptable. It is time for fresh eyes, new ideas, energy to build and execute plans, and the team-oriented mindset to make the progress that our community deserves.

The choice is clear: Vote for the five of us to ensure that the best interests of our beautiful community can finally be served. On your ballot, you will be asked to vote for no more than three candidates for the Water District. Please use all three of your votes for our entire Water Team. If you do not, you increase the chance that the incumbent will be returned to office. Similarly, you will be asked to vote for no more than two candidates for Sanitary District. Please use both your votes for our Sanitary Team. Otherwise, you increase the chances the incumbents will be returned to office.


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