I was all set to get to work on my first post – and promptly got stuck. Where do I start? After mulling this over for at least a week, I never could figure it out as I am new to this whole blog thing, so I dismissed the question and decided to just hold my nose and jump right in.
One of the first things I learned on this journey is that an election isn’t decided for some time after the polling places close – not even in a small community or in an even smaller election. I ran for Director of Division 4 of the North Yuba Water District.
There are five divisions in the NYWD service territory which consists of domestic and irrigation customers, as well as citizens annexed by NYWD who receive no water at all (You read that right – true that and a topic for a later time). Each division has a director and the term of office for a director is four years. There are two ways to become a director: you run a campaign and are elected by the People; OR you are appointed by the Board or a departing Director when a Director must leave before their term of office is up.
In 2018, two director’s seats were up for re-election: Division 4 held by Donald Forguson who was never elected and Division 5 held by Eric Hansard, who was also not actually elected. Forguson had been appointed when someone on the Board unexpectedly left office two terms back. When that term was up, no one opposed him, and so he was appointed for a second term (2014-2018). In 2018, Eric Hansard was unopposed and thus was simply re-appointed to the post.
[I haven’t touched on the campaign itself here, and will likely touch on it in later posts; but I called this “She Persisted – The Journey of Newbie Elected Official” and so I thought the blog should start where I became an official elected into public service.]
I remain astonished that so many directors run for office unopposed. Water Districts make decisions that affect entire communities – we all have a vested interest in what the Boards of our Water Districts are doing and who is on the Board. However, after running a campaign and only one month in as a Director, I understand why there are few contenders.
Between the time when mail-in ballots were sent out and up til November 6 (voting day), I kept receiving e-mails and phone calls: “I can’t find your name on my ballot.” People who were not in my Division wanted to vote for me – but you can only vote for Director of your own division. Many folks were unsure what Division they reside in. I get it, I can’t make heads or tails out of NYWD maps either….and I began trying to figure out those maps starting last April…. Oh and did I tell you I am a scientist? That I do this for a living? There is no reason that a Water District cannot have easy-to-read georeferenced maps and, in this day and age, they should. FYI – most Water Districts do because that best serves the People in a multitude of ways.
There were also issues with the voter data provided to me by the Elections Office; the voter data are prepared using the division boundary maps provided to the Elections Office by NYWD. Apparently, problems with NYWD and their voter map are long-standing issues, causing no end of headaches to the Elections Office over the years. This year was no different.
NYWD (and any special district) can revise the boundaries of their service territory divisions. This is supposed to be done only to ensure equal numbers of voters in each division. Local and state agencies have a limited period of time prior to an election to revise and submit the voter boundary maps to the Elections Office (in Yuba County, I believe they must be submitted 90 days prior, although I have also heard 180 days bandied about….hard to get a clear answer on this). The maps and boundaries determine whose division each voter is in, which can change if the boundaries have been re-drawn.
Here’s the problem: NYWD submits hand-drawn paper maps. These are not digitized, georeferenced maps; so, the Elections Office must painstakingly visually compare the hand drawn paper map submitted by NYWD to their maps and – by hand – draw in the boundaries on the Elections Office map and then try to figure out which division each house or residence is located in. A painstaking, tedious, costly, highly inaccurate procedure and wholly unnecessary in today’s digital world.
At the risk of my repeating myself: There is no reason that a Water District cannot have easy-to-read georeferenced maps and, in this day and age, they should. FYI – most Water Districts use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps because that best serves the People in a multitude of ways. Remember that little thing? Serving the People?
Well, after all was said and done – I won the election. I ran for Division 4 and the election results were certified November 26, 2018 after all the mail-in and absentee ballots had been counted. I won the election 152 to 92 and received a letter from the Yuba County Elections Office congratulating me on my win. I was sworn in at the Yuba County Elections Office on December 3, 2018. And I was off and running…………………………………not so much.