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TID hopefuls hold forum
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Four of the five candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot to become Turlock Irrigation District Directors gathered on Wednesday evening for the first candidate forum of the year.
District 5 candidates Ron Macedo and Pamela Sweeten, District 3 candidate Joe Alamo, and District 2 incumbent Charles Fernandez, who is running unopposed, took to the podium at Turlock’s American Legion Hall on Bothun Road to answer three predetermined questions and greet potential voters. District 3 candidate Keith Silva did not attend.
The forum kicked off with opening statements where each candidate listed his or her qualifications for the post.
The lifelong Turlocker Alamo touted his experience in dairy farming — having held many posts in dairy leadership organizations — and his bachelor’s degree in Ag Business with an emphasis in irrigation management. Macedo also comes from an ag background, having served as past president of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau and a current member of the California Farm Bureau, and is involved with the Turlock Kiwanis club and sits on the board for the Turlock Rural Fire Department.
Sweeten, whose grandfather and two uncles were TID employees, related her experience with California Women for Agriculture, the national office of American Agri-Women, and FFA Alumni, while explaining how her 25 years of experience in the walnut and almond industries made her sensitive to the needs of farmers.
Fernandez, the current president of the TID Board of Directors, made note of the fact that he has never faced an opponent in a TID election since taking office in 2001.
“I hope that means that the voters in my division think I’m doing a good job,” Fernandez said.
The candidates were questioned about their vision for the TID, the biggest challenges they saw facing the District in the future, and how their qualifications might prepare them to foster that vision and meet those challenges.
Sweeten, a Hilmar resident, painted a vision of a TID that is dedicated to both the highest level of consumer care possible and the preservation of the rights and well being of employees. She advocated for consumer education on conservation, ratepayer incentives for conservation, and increased investigation into the use of renewable resources to stay on the good side of government officials and to provide for customers in lean times.
“TID is like every other entity that is dependent on a natural resource,” Sweeten said. “With this comes regulation and politics and a bit of luck where nature is concerned.”
Alamo hopes to follow the “tremendous vision” of the District’s founders, should he be elected, by ensuring an affordable and plentiful electricity and water supply for all consumers. He believes that some electricity projects may need to be put on hold temporarily in a cost saving measure — as demand has fallen to 2007 levels in the down economy — and that the upcoming Federal relicensing of the Don Pedro reservoir and Tuolumne River water rights should receive the full attention of the board.
“We’ve got to protect those rights for our farmers,” Alamo said. “I’m not the first to say it, but prosperity grows where water flows.”    
Macedo largely agreed with Alamo, stating that TID must “enhance and maintain its reputation as the model for power and water systems in the State of California.”
He lamented proposals that environmentalists might claim 30 percent of TID’s irrigation water in the pending Don Pedro relicensing, stating that water rights are the number one issue facing the District. Macedo noted that irrigation recharges groundwater supplies — a fact oft ignored by environmentalists — and that the TID region is the only place in the state with sustainable groundwater levels.
“There’s going to be a number of people who are interested in your water – our water,” Macedo. “It’s important that we fight and protect those water rights here.”
Fernandez kept his comments short throughout the evening, as he will retain his seat on the board since he faces no opponent, but advocated remaining faithful to the concepts that have made TID strong while planning for the challenges of the 21st century — including expected grabs at the District’s water supply by urban areas and conservation groups. Fernandez said he remains committed to dependably providing both water to farmers and electric power to ratepayers at low costs.
When the new directors are seated on Dec. 8, Fernandez will become the longest tenured member of the Board and one of only two returning directors in a major shift in Board leadership. Division 5 Director Randy Fiorini and Division 3 Director Micheal Berryhill will not seek reelection, and Division 1 Director Phillip Short will be replaced by appointment in the coming weeks, following his Sept. 27 passing.
“Just four years ago I was a junior member on the TID board,” Fernandez said. “On Dec. 8, 2009, I will be the senior board member.”
“… These will be very challenging times, but I’m confident that those three new directors, along with (Division 4) Director (Rob) Santos and I, will continue to guide TID as the leader in irrigation and electric utilities,” Fernandez said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.