What do you think about first when you want to listen to a podcast? Food? Sports? Entertainment? True crime?
How about water?
Turlock Irrigation District isn’t just in the water and power business these days, it’s also gotten into the podcast game — hosted by Constance Anderson, the TID communications division manager, and produced by Brandon McMillan, TID communications specialist.
Turns out, water and power issues are surprisingly interesting. Who knew? Well, TID general manager Michelle Reimers, that’s who.
“It was something we had talked about for a while,” said Reimers. “I remember in my interview for being general manager I was, like, ‘We need to be out in the community and we need a podcast,’ and I remember the looks on their faces.”
Reimers started in the communications division at TID and communicating with customers and the media has always been in her background. She understands the importance of information and transparency.
“A lot of what the district does is complex in nature, so it can be tough to distill it down to a 30-second video or a soundbite or a social media post,” said McMillan, a native of Turlock and former member of the media. “The opportunity to record a 30-minute, 45-minute, hour-plus-long podcast and diving into complex topics has been great for the district.”
As Reimers pointed out, people drive past the TID building, 333 E. Canal Dr., and have no idea what goes on inside. And TID needs to let the public know that it’s much more than just water and power.
Little do customers know that in the TID basement, in a 9-foot by 14-foot audio-conditioned room, the oldest irrigation district in California — celebrating its 135 anniversary this year — is producing podcasts, drawing regular listeners from Sacramento, Ohio and even as far away as Germany.
“I love it, it’s been such an awesome opportunity,” said Anderson. “You know, in communications for the district, we have to know a little bit about everything, because we could be called on to speak about anything or answer questions from reporters about any number of topics. In doing the podcast, we’ve had the opportunity to really dive further into so many of these topics and it’s an education for me in preparing for the podcast. It’s been really fulfilling and really fun.”
TID’s podcasts have about 5,600 downloads to date, and the top three episodes are a little above 300 downloads each.
“Not quite ‘This American Life,’ but the majority of our episodes reach enough downloads within the first week of release to be in the top 25 percent of all podcasts, according to Buzzsprout,” said McMillan.
But if you think that all the episodes are about dam safety or hydrological forecasting and modeling or the energy market imbalance … think again.
To be sure, many of the topics are dense, but there’s also a lot of fun topics, as well.
Take, for instance, the podcast of June 8 about how Turlock became the first irrigation district in California. Or this doozy: the tale of Roy Meikle, from Aug. 5.
For those of you who don’t know, Roy Meikle was the chief engineer for the district and was, essentially, TID’s first general manager. During a TID board of directors meeting in 1945, a disgruntled farmer charged into the board room and attempted to assassinate Meikle. Fortunately, Meikle was only superficially wounded. Board member Ahlem followed the fleeing farmer outside, pointed him out to the police, and the farmer was apprehended on Main Street. The farmer was tried, convicted and sent to serve his sentence at a state mental facility.
After being apprehended, the shooter told a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputy, “I’ve had it in for the district, and I have had for some time.”
The Meikle podcast is part of TID’s Short Stories series.
“It’s really been a bonus to Michelle’s leadership,” said Anderson. “She is so much more willing to put TID out there, to kind of open the doors and really show our customers and the community what goes on here.”
TID’s podcasts are available at TID.org/podcast or Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon and Google.