Santa Fe Irrigation selects new board director


The Santa Fe Irrigation District has selected Sandra Johnson as the new director for District 3, representing Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch. Johnson, a retired school superintendent and 40-year resident of Rancho Santa Fe, fills the seat left by Marlene King who resigned in December after six years of service to the board.

Sandra Johnson was selected as the new director for the Santa Fe Irrigation District board.

At the SFID’s board’s Jan. 25 meeting they interviewed two women for the vacancy: Johnson and Rancho Santa Fe resident Janet Danola, both of whom were considered “excellent” candidates. Johnson stood out for her experience working with public agencies and her depth of knowledge about the strategic planning process—the district is the process of updating its plan that was last adopted in 2012.

Johnson comes from a 40-year career in education, working as a teacher, principal and superintendent of two school districts. After she retired, she served on the Rancho Santa Fe Association Art Jury from 2016-19.

“While education may seem somewhat far afield from a water district I think there are a lot of skills that I learned that would apply to this position,” Johnson said of her experience working with boards, meeting state budget requirements, listening to and serving constituents and extensive involvement with strategic planning.

A strong advocate for strategic planning, Johnson suggested that the district’s plan include more of a future focus as well as core values to help guide their decisions such as a culture of honesty, trust and fairness, and stewardship of water resources.

As Johnson owns a producing lemon grove in Rancho Santa Fe with about 210 lemon trees, she understands the issues facing the district’s agricultural customers, finding a balance between water usage and needs. She and her husband have done everything they can to conserve including upgrading sprinkler systems, installing plants that use less water and reducing their lawn—but they also have an appreciation for how important the grove is for the environment and they want to maintain it for its beauty and its benefits.

Regarding serving on the SFID board, Johnson said she knows she has a lot to learn but she is up to the challenge.

“I never do anything half-heartedly and when I take on any new task or job my goal is always to make it better. That is not a criticism of the water district but I don’t believe any organization is ever good enough,” Johnson said. “ I think there are always ways we can improve. Our task really is to adopt that model of continuous improvement.”