Santa Fe Irrigation District board election comes at crucial time

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By Joe Tash

Contributor

The terms of three members of the Santa Fe Irrigation District's board of directors are up this year, but voters will decide on only one seat, as two of the incumbents ran unopposed.

Augustus "Augie" Daddi, a five-year veteran of the water board, faces challenger Andy Menshek for the board's Division 5 seat, which represents part of Solana Beach, in the Nov. 2 election. Board president Michael Hogan and director John Ingalls are unopposed for new four-year terms.

The district provides water to residents of Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch, an area of 15.9 square miles with a population of about 22,500.

The election comes during a period of steep water rate increases, caused primarily by hikes in the cost of imported water the district buys to serve its customers. A drought in the Colorado River basin and environmental restrictions on pumping water from Northern California have tightened supplies and pushed up prices.

Over the past three years, the irrigation district has raised its rates 50 percent, and a public hearing will be held Oct. 21 (after presstime for this newspaper) on a proposal to raise rates an additional 36 percent over the next three years.

District officials said they are trying to hold down costs to keep rate increases to a minimum. Currently, the district is in negotiations with its employee bargaining unit on a new contract. Among their goals for the negotiations, said officials, are to hold salaries at their present levels, while seeking increased retirement contributions from employees.

Against this backdrop, Daddi and Menshek are vying for the board's Division 5 seat.

Following are interviews with the two candidates:

Augustus "Augie" Daddi

Daddi was appointed to the board in 2005 to complete the term of a board member who died. He then ran unopposed in 2006 for a full four-year term.

Daddi retired in 1993 from General Dynamics, where he worked for 40 years and rose to the position of vice president of human resources. Daddi said his experience in human resources complements the experience of other members of the board, who have backgrounds in finance, business, utility management and other areas.

Among steps the district has taken to cut expenses is delaying some planned capital improvement projects, while still carrying out necessary maintenance, Daddi said.

"We think we are doing everything we can to keep rates down," Daddi said, and at the same time, "We want to make sure our delivery system is in top shape."

Daddi said he has lived in Solana Beach for 36 years, and knows the community well.

"If the ratepayers of Santa Fe Irrigation District Division 5 feel the district has been run well, that would be a reason to elect me," Daddi said.

Andy Menshek

Menshek and his wife moved to Solana Beach two and a half years ago, after living in East County, where Menshek served on the board of directors for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District for 14 years. Menshek works as a battalion chief for the San Miguel Fire Department, which serves Rancho San Diego, La Mesa and Spring Valley.

One reason he decided to run for the Santa Fe Irrigation District Board, Menshek said, was his concern about emergency preparedness following the 2007 wildfires and recent earthquakes in the region. He said his background in emergency planning and water district management would be an asset to the water board.

"I want to bring that to the district I live in now and give back to the community," Menshek said.

Menshek said he also has experience in water reuse and recycling, which he will bring to bear if elected to the Santa Fe board.

"I think my skill set is very timely and topical now," Menshek said.

"If we can fully maximize our opportunities in conservation, reuse and desalination (from a planned desalination plant in Carlsbad), we can offset and minimize rate increases and minimize dependency on imported water," he said.

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