In a campaign during which the candidates often seemed to run more against the district than each other, two new members have been elected to the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors.
In Division 2, retired CEO Greg Prada won out over retired analyst Richard Englefield, 59 percent to 39 percent.
In Division 4, Dr. Dale Coco won over attorney Jake Flesher, 58 percent to 42 percent.
Prada said he didn’t expect the campaign to be driven so much by money, saying his opponent outspent him six-to-one. But he said his prior involvement with EID as a volunteer and writing articles about the district gave him name recognition with voters.
“I”m looking forward to serving on the board as the ratepayers representative,” noted Prada, saying he plans to influence certain changes. “The big thing I differ with the board is on spending practices. They think they have cut spending to the bone, but I feel there’s a lot more that could and should be done, especially on the administrative side and in how they prioritize projects. I’m just one board member, but that will be my agenda. My priorities are to be cost prudent and see what the implication are for rates. Moving back the debt offering was the reason why EID could push back six points of rate hikes. But more can be done if costs are scrutinized, on the overhead side in particular. It’s clear-cut to me that less administrative expenses are needed and could give some rate relief in 2014.”
Promising to “roll up his sleeves and do his utmost to help the ratepayers and represent them on the EID board,” Prada said meetings will be longer in the future and more consideration will be given to ratepayers in future board decisions.
The other winner in the election was Dr. Coco. ”I’m honored and somewhat humbled by the fact that I now have the responsibility for a lot of people,” he said. “For providing affordable, clean water to them and taking care of their wastewater and taking care of their needs. I feel the same responsibility towards EID and its constituency that I did towards my patients. That’s a big responsibility and a humbling thing.”
Coco said there were two major factors that helped him win over Flesher. First were his credentials and experience in administration and leading cost containment projects.
“I have a reputation for credibility and integrity in the county,” he said.
The second major factor was the coalition he put together. He received support, donations and endorsements from slow growth advocates, Parker Development, small businesses and individuals, the chamber of commerce, Realtors, activists, the agricultural community and farmers, wineries and winery owners.
“It was unprecedented in this county and people are still talking about it,” Coco said. “All factions and stakeholders were part of this coalition, many of whom had never cooperated before. Flesher, on the other hand, had a narrow base while mine covered all aspects of the county.”
Coco said the coalition is part of his vision for the county as being all-inclusive. “One of reasons I was successful was my ability to bring people together, build a consensus and move things forward and that’s what I intend to do,” he explained. “And I want to keep that coalition together for the greater good of the county.”
As far as his immediate priorities, Coco acknowledged he’s on the front end of a steep learning curve.
“I want to learn everything about EID, meet its employees, see its operations and learn how things are done,” he said. “Then I intend to do what I said I would during my campaign: make EID make more cost-effective and improve or increase quality. I will also try to freeze rates during my term of office. Long term my goal is to make EID energy self-sufficient in 10 to 15 years.”
Doing all that includes retooling Project 184, securing the district’s water rights and making EID as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
“I also want to thank all my volunteers, endorsers and supporters and those who donated,” said Coco. “I received a lot of individual donations with some donating beyond their means. It is extremely gratifying to have that support from ratepayers.”
The candidates coming in second also commented on the election returns.
Sounding almost relieved it was over, Jake Flesher said he was gratified by the support he received. He also congratulated Coco for “the coalition he put together and for running an admirable campaign based on the issues.”
Joking that “people like doctors more than they do lawyers,” Flesher said on paper he and Coco were similar in many of their positions but he thought his opponent had the edge in the level of financial support he received and the way he framed the issues.
“I want to thank everyone who walked precincts and made phone calls on behalf of my campaign,” Flesher said. “I wish Coco and Greg the best of luck in working with EID.”
Englefield was upset by his failure to win a seat, saying the money he received from home builders hurt his campaign. But it costs a lot to live in the county, insisted Englefield, and that’s because there’s a lack of people paying into the service.
“Less density means higher utility bills. If that’s what they want when they talk about stopping building, they need to understand it comes with a cost. But people don’t want to hear the truth,” Englefield said. “Greg won because he has been sandpapering EID’s bottom for three years and apparently people like to see that. But ratepayers are going to find out the hard way it’s going to cost them.
“I was running on the truth and I found out people just don’t want to hear the truth. They want to be lied to. They love it,” he continued. “Water and sewer rates are going to continue to go up but they don’t want to hear it. I’m so glad I didn’t lie and he (Greg) did.”
Saying that Prada didn’t report all the expenses of his campaign, especially the cost of his signs, Englefield said he was turned off by how often people ignore the laws governing elections and by how little enforcement there is.
He ended his comments by saying, “Since running for public office and meeting more people, I love my dog even more.”
Staff with the El Dorado County Elections Department said approximately 550 votes remain to be counted or recounted with the final results of the election certified by the end of next week if not sooner. However those votes won’t affect the outcome of the EID election.
The new directors begin their terms Dec. 6.