The room was packed at the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District's Nov. 19 board meeting, and so was the nearby lobby, where district staff set out chairs so attendees could watch the meeting live on a big screen.
"I have not seen that many people in our building in forever," MPWMD General Manager Dave Stoldt says.
The business at hand was the appointment of a replacement for former board member Bob Brower, who retired from the board in October for health reasons but whose term extends until the end of 2020.
Much of the interest in who fills the seat stems from the recent passage of Measure J, the ballot initiative that compels the Water Management District to conduct a study as to whether it's feasible to buyout California American Water's local system, and to initiate a buyout if it is.
Seven residents in Carmel Valley (one of which lives on its edges, in Mission Fields) within the district Brower represented—which also encompasses Carmel and Carmel Highlands—applied to fill the vacancy, and after each of them spoke for about five minutes about why they were qualified for the position, to answer questions from the board.
In the end, the board made three nominations (four out six votes were required for approval): Ralph Rubio nominated retired engineer Gary Hoffmann, Mary Adams nominated her chief of staff Kate Daniels (who is leaving the position at year's end) and Brenda Lewis nominated former MPWMD board member Judi Lehman.
A vote was taken for Hoffmann first, and he was appointed in a 4-2 vote (Adams, Lewis).
As he presented to the board before the nominations were made, Hoffmann outlined his experience and deep knowledge of the local water system, which he gained working as the district engineer for state Department of Public Health's Monterey District.
That experience included working on the permits for the Sand City desalination facility, the aquifer storage and recovery project in Seaside and various Cal Am facilities in the area.
More recently, he served for a year as general manager of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District, where he oversaw a redesign of its waste treatment plant.
He also serves on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, and is a licensed first responder for whale entanglements.
When it came to answering questions from the board, he said he was hesitant to offer a definition of what feasibility would like to buy out Cal Am, other than to say operating a water district is a "totally different ball game" than what MPWMD currently does.
When asked whether he supported Measure J, Hoffmann said, "It doesn't matter if I supported it—it's an answered question," adding that his background with running a water district would be valuable resource to the board in the process.