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Guy Gertsch stands tall, ready to keep working

Guy Gertsch
Guy Gertsch

Guy Gertsch seeks a second term on the El Dorado Hills Community Services District Board of Directors to retain the fiscal sanity his board brought to a district that lacked financial leadership and was “spending frivolously on processes and procedures,” he said.

There were “too many consultants, too much travel, too many colors,” he said, a reference to $100,000 spent to develop a management scorecard that included identifying each manager’s personal color.

“As a taxpayer that set me off,” he said. “A board’s decision making has to be grounded in fiscal responsibility. We have to listen to the public, learn about the projects, make the decisions then lead.”

Gertsch points to the fiscal accomplishments of the last four years as evidence that even in bad times, a good board can steer the CSD to sound fiscal footing.

While other park and recreation agencies battle budget deficits with layoffs, park closures and service reductions, his board continued to improve facilities across the board, and also built new parks, practicing prudence to keep upfront building costs and ongoing maintenance demands low.

Gertsch served as board president during a tumultuous 2011 that left him more convinced than ever that strong leadership from both the board and the general manager is essential for the district to thrive.

“Growing up, my mother taught me about principles and convictions, to stand tall for what I believe in and I guess I grew into that,” said the congenial, broad-shouldered 6-and-a-third-foot tall Scout Master who looks more like a linebacker than a church-going family man and community leader. “That’s what drove me to this board, and drives me to want a second term.”

With a tight grouping of five kids ranging from 13 to 19 years old and a career in transition last year, the 43-year-old husband and father admits that making time for board service wasn’t always easy.

He did it because “I want to make a difference in this community.”

Gertsch traces his affection for El Dorado Hills to a teenage penchant for long bike rides. He grew up in Sacramento. El Dorado Hills and Davis were favorite day-trip destinations.

He recalls grinding up Wilson Way and taking in the view from the ridge dreaming of one day living in such a place.

That day arrived eight years ago. The Gertsch clan moved from Antelope to the west-of-the-ridge Promontory neighborhood near the CSD’s planned Promontory Park, just the second community park in the district’s 50-year existence.

He quickly got sucked into controversy over park plans, volunteering for the Master Plan Advisory Council to better understand the complex regulatory framework behind park planning and funding. Gertsch saw his neighbors battle the CSD over the lights, a fight they ultimately lost, then joined them in a rematch over amenities, advocating a follow-up project that added the popular sprayground, plus playground, picnic and turf areas in the south end of the park (Promontory II).

He recently sat down with Village Life in the parks picnic area on a bright fall afternoon and explained the park’s contentious history.After a legal battle over park lighting in 2005, and unexpected rock formations that required extensive blasting and asbestos mitigation, the park opened in 2007 with sports fields, tennis and bocce ball courts, a shaded play area, bathrooms and parking.The park was budgeted for $5.3 million and cost $8.2 million, but failed to deliver many of the amenities that neighbors had asked.“They cut out the family elements,” said Gertsch. “There was no picnic area, no grass and only a small playground.”He got involved to advocate for those amenities, the project which became “Promontory II,” completed in 2007.

Gertsch hoped to heal the emotional wounds left by the lawsuit and a series of ugly confrontations he witnessed between the CSD board and his neighbors in three years of formative board meetings leading up to his first candidacy.

He wonders how anyone who hasn’t witnessed the sausage-making can suddenly show up and think they know the business of the district well enough to run for the board.

“So now I’ve attended six-and-a-half years of board meetings,” he said. “How many others in this race can say that?”

While sitting in a Promontory picnic area Gertsch pointed to a weedy hill above Promontory Park and said the master plan calls for a community center on that spot, “and a basketball court over there,” he said, pointing to a flatter spot.

“But we have to live within our means,” he said. “We have to ask if we need those things.”

Gertsch argues that he’s uniquely qualified to make those tough decisions because he knows the facilities and the plans.

Accomplishments

In addition to Promontory II, Gertsch’s boards completed Jeff Mitchell Field, “an inspirational project that brought everybody together;” Lake Forest Park, “a crown jewel;” the Steven Harris Park renovation and the New York Creek East field renovation, important because it introduces water saving Bermuda grass, which might also work in the Community Park, he said.

The venerable CSD Community Pool got a million-plus dollar facelift, including electronics, decks and locker rooms.

Gertsch takes particular pride in Lake Forest Park, approved a year after voters rejected a combined assessment that included an amenity-stuffed Windsor Point Park.

“We never gave up on Lake Forest,” he said. “We found a way to make it work.”

In doing so the CSD fulfilled a promise made to residents 20 years ago.

The above accomplishments were achieved with the economy in a tailspin, taking 15 percent, conservatively, of the district’s property tax revenue down with it.

Fiscal fortitude

In the last four years the current board has also turned a meager $50,000 capital deficiency reserve into $4.4 million, plus another $1.2 million in other reserves.

The reserve is critical because Gov. Jerry Brown is depending on Proposition 30 to balance the budget. “If it fails, the state’s going to cry foul and take the gloves off again,” said Gertsch.

Local agencies may be called on to make up the deficit. The first targets will be undesignated funds, so reserves must be tied to a specific future project whenever possible.

Building the reserve required a couple of staff reorganizations and downsizing through attrition, leaving management positions vacant and asking key managers Sandi Kukkola, Mike Cottrell and Sherry Shannon to step up.

Volunteer nation

Gertsch sees volunteerism as a “core focus of the future,” an essential cost-saving strategy that also brings the community together.

Current and past board candidates have also talked about strengthening volunteer efforts. Gertsch wants voters to know that his board had done more than talk, with major volunteer projects in each of the last three years.

Hundreds of local Mormons and other volunteers turned out to lend a “helping hand” at Murray Homestead Park three years ago. They’ve since built a rail fence at Promontory Park, built trails and “barked” playground areas in the Community Park.

And it’s not just Mormons. “The church group organized it but lots of non-Mormons were involved,” said Gertsch.

Identifying volunteer opportunities is critical, “but that’s actually the easy part,” he said. “You need a policy, and we’ve got one just about done.”

Volunteer programs don’t just happen, he added. “It takes leadership that understands volunteerism and buys into it.”

General Manager Brent Dennis is one such leader. “That’s one reason we picked him,” said Gertsch, who also promised that volunteerism will be built into the planning and goal-setting process.

For residents or local companies that want to help their CSD out without risking blisters, the board is creating a 501(c)3 non-profit that will allow tax deductible cash contributions.

The CSD’s Parks Department takes great pride in its high turf standards, and also in its joint-use agreements with local schools. But field maintenance is not a priority for the perennially cash-strapped schools, and the resulting field conditions at schools puts inordinate pressure on the superior CSD fields, and also on the lower extremities of the soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball players who compete on the school fields.

“The fields at Rolling Hills (Middle school) fields were horrible … very dangerous,” said Gertsch. “We ripped them up and replaced them.”

The CSD is trying to upgrade the remaining joint use fields as well, he added.

But it’s not just schools and parks. “The CSD needs to work for the entire community,” said Gertsch. “We need to offer programs, activities and facilities for kids, seniors and everyone between.”

Sitting in the late afternoon glow at Promontory Park, Gertsch reflected on the board that built it. “They had the money, and they spent it here. How tough was that really?

“No other board has ever had to deal with an economic climate like this,” he added. “Look at all we’ve accomplished.”

Short URL: http://www.villagelife.com/?p=26131

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Posted by on Oct 22 2012.
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27 Comments for “Guy Gertsch stands tall, ready to keep working”


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  1. I hear more and more from these candidates about “volunteerism.” Yet, as I’ve followed the CSD closely in the post-John Skeel debacle, my recollection is that “volunteerism” was first mentioned by new GM Brent Dennis. Are these candidates just borrowing someone else’s “catch-phrase” – albeit, a worthy one?

  2. Check out Bill Tobin’s record of volunteerism. The volunteer work he does now and has done for years speaks for itself. It’s all on the home page of his web site.

  3. Sorry Guy Gertsch. You and your fellow Board Members screwed-up the Skeel hiring, so you’ll all be unemployed soon.

    • Unemployed? Is it your belief that these board members are paid a wage for this job? These board members have full-time jobs and, in their spare time, they volunteer to be on the CSD board. Sure, they get a $100 stipend for the board meeting, but these folks don’t do this board work for the money.

      • The truth is that these folks want to be in the spotlight. What is amazing to me is that they have the nerve to think that we voters will allow another Four years of bad behavior. Additionally, Mr. Gertch has a poor record of attendance at the board meetings. By far more no shows that any other board member. It’s not the money they seek…it’s the power. Shame

        • Yes, it’s about the power. The promontory board works the same way, with Gertsch handing out contracts and favors to those within his influence.

  4. EDHCSD Supporter

    Just read this article and appreciate the good job the CSD Board has done during a tough economic time. I enjoy our parks and facilities and love the hard work the CSD staff and board have put in to make our community better. The Skeel issue is resolved and I feel our community should move on as the Skeels and CSD Board have done so. It is time to move on and focus on our community needs that the CSD Board and staff are working hard to address. The negative bantering does nothing to move our community onward and upward. I live near the Lake Forest Park and am thankful each day that the Board fought to get this park in and also Windsor Point Park. So many boards over the past 20 years have turned their back on our needs and not finished this project. Love the swimming pool enhancements as well. Keep up the good work CSD staff and board. Love EDHCSD!!

  5. While I agree that the CSD Board has done some good in the past, I also believe that a few of them showed their “true colors” in past, recent events. They lacked compassion and human-decency. Fiscal fortitude = great. Moral fortitude=not so great. And don’t spew to me about religion. Practice what you preach.

  6. Bullying is not OK!

    Why were the anti-bullying comments on this article and the Chuck Hammond Article removed? Censorship is not good and should not be condoned by our community! All voices should be allowed to be heard and not just the ones spouting hate.

  7. CSD Supporter, this is word for word the post you made on the Mt Democrat article on Gertsch, right? It’s OK to be a Gertsch supporter (or Gertsch himself?), but it’s hard to defend this CSD board. Morals and credibility trump any achievements they may have made. When they lift the Kimono and show us everything that happened with Skeel, I’ll reconsider my position. Until then, Gertsch and Mattock hove no business representing our community.

  8. I followed the incident with Mr. Skeel. I can’t in good conscience support any of these people, Gertsch, Lowery, Mattock, et al. I encourage anyone who reads this article to do some research into what happened with John Skeel. I will not be voting to reelect them or anyone in their clique.

  9. CSD GM Skeel takes unexplained leave

    El Dorado Hills Community Services District General Manager John Skeel has taken an unplanned leave of absence, reportedly at the encouragement of the CSD Board of Directors.

    Skeel said he couldn’t discuss his leave but did call it “surprising.” He took the job in January 2011.

    Neither Skeel or CSD officials have returned calls, but unofficial sources confirmed that Board President Guy Gertch chaired an all-staff meeting on Wednesday, June 22, and explained Skeel’s absence to the CSD employees as “personal.”

    Skeel came in promising a district reorganization, but in recent board meetings the directors have rejected Skeel’s preliminary budget proposals.

    One unnamed source conjectured that Skeel, who is very popular with the staff, was too concerned with staff and union concerns. Another said Skeel had completed an evaluation of district operations and created a plan, but was thwarted by the board in efforts to actively manage the district.

    Skeel moved his family from Evergreen, Colo., to El Dorado Hills in December 2010.

    The board chose him from 70 candidates for the position, offering an annual salary of $125,000.

    At the time he was hired Skeel told Village Life, “It seemed like a good fit, the right place and the right time.”

  10. New Board Needed at CSD

    Neither Gertsch nor Mattock has had the gumption to address their role in the Skeel hiring and firing. The entire episode stinks to high heaven. Now it’s time to fire them.

  11. EDHCSD Supporter

    I for one appreciate the good job the CSD Board and staff has done during these tough economic times. Noticed a few posts recently about the Skeel issue. The Skeel issue is resolved and I feel our community should move on as the Skeels and CSD Board have done so. Time to move on….It is time to move on and focus on our community needs that the CSD Board and staff are working hard to address. The negative bantering does nothing to move our community onward and upward. I feel we also only have one side of the story as the CSD Board and staff have noted they cannot discuss the employment / employee Skeel issue. Does a CSD Board and staff do an outstanding job for nearly 4 years then get a wild hair and sink their financial ship? I do not think so and the situation has been resolved. Our community is beyond it….we should focus and concentrate on our current community needs and projects. Enough baseless slander and attacks without the full story. Seems we should focus on EID or other agencies that continue to raise our taxes and fees with rubber stamped budgets….Keep up the good work CSD staff and board. Love EDHCSD!!

  12. Upset EID Taxpayer

    I agree with EDHCSD Supporter. We need to quickly focus on the bloated EID proposed budget: 60% of their budget is for salaries and benefits and a cost of $127,000 per employee. Completely unacceptable!! Looks like we need to attend the next EID Board Meeting…..http://www.villagelife.com/commentary/letters/eid-planning-127000-per-employee-paycontinued-bloated-headquarters-staff/.

  13. The Skeel issue will be resolved when ALL involved are gone, not just Mr. Skeel. CSD Supporter, why do you keep posting the exact same post? And only on Mr. Gertsch’s articles? (Twice here and once on Mt Democrat).

  14. EDHCSD Supporter

    EDH – We will choose to differ in our opinions. I don’t agree with you and feel removing all of our CSD Board will not be in the best interests of EDH. Our community needs more parks and facilities and the CSD needs to continue to provide these without the drama and damage of closed and resolved issues. Our community deserves to move on and focus on the important issues before us.

  15. Our CSD Board will provide for parks, etc., with new members better than with members who carry baggage and are (at minimum perceived to be) tainted by scandal. The entire board does not turn over at once. You still get some of your beloved existing board members CSD Supporter, and I get a start on my new ones! Time for our community to move on!

  16. Why does Guy Gertsch have his house up for sale? Is he moving out of EDH? Or can he no longer afford his house due to his fiscal responsibility?

  17. Pete S – We are selling our house to downsizing as our children are growing up / moving out / college. We are staying in EDH. Love this wonderful community and residents! It is an honor to serve such outstanding residents. Wish everyone well and much success in 2012 and well into 2013!. – Guy

  18. Downsize :). Residents can contact me via e-mail and voice through the contacts noted on the EDHCSD website (www.edhcsd.org) or my campaign website @ http://www.GuyGertsch.com. – Guy

  19. For all the ‘un-named’ bloggers,
    Use your real names! As I see it these comments are coming from the Skeels and the employees that apparently the former GM tried to give unauthorized raises to that would cost us the taxpayers!
    Take time to read both documents! And ask yourself why someone would settle a supposed multi-million dollar suit for pennies?
    I am appauled that this newspaper continues to allow this slandering and bullying to continue….just to sell papers!

  20. Dear bullying – aren’t you doing the same thing? Why did Guy Gertsch allow the situation to even reach the point where a lawsuit was needed? $150k to have him absent from work for nine months? Guy should focus on his day job at Frontier.

  21. Everyone has a voice and the constructive way of using it is at the ballot box. You should be ashamed of yourself setting such a horrible example for the youth of our community. Are you aware that three teens have committed suicide this year!? Where do you think our youth learn to bully and say such hateful and mean things…in their home! Man up and be a good role model.

  22. I agree with Brian C. Guy, why did you bully Skeel out of his position? Far from “standing tall”.

  23. Gregory, hold a mirror up and you know what you will see… A bully staring back at you!
    The youth of our community deserve a better role model than a bully like you!

  24. Guy, please stop using the teen suicides as an excuse for your poor performance. Bringing up such a painful topic to defend your poor record is frankly disgusting. Be a good role model to the youth and resign.

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