Mann says late bill paying doesn’t reflect how he serves county

Cy Mann

Director Cy Mann’s reputation for stirring the pot continues
just as the Nov. 2 election ramps up. The Santa Clara Valley Water
District’s lone incumbent
– and relatively new appointee – has made headlines in a water
district engulfed in controversy, punctuated by several civil grand
jury reports that claim the district has mismanaged its budget and
board member’s motivations have been compromised by special
interests.
Director Cy Mann’s reputation for stirring the pot continues just as the Nov. 2 election ramps up.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s lone incumbent – and relatively new appointee – has made headlines in a water district engulfed in controversy, punctuated by several civil grand jury reports that claim the district has mismanaged its budget and board member’s motivations have been compromised by special interests.

In April, the drawing of new electoral boundaries were awash in charges of politically motivated gerrymandering with Mann and district officials in the center of the controversy.

With today being the final day to file candidate papers for the race, the San Jose Mercury reported earlier this week that Mann had not paid his water bill on time in eight years for his well on Hale Avenue, Moreover, Mann said he was not going to run.

That’s not what he said Wednesday, however. Mann said he is running, “and I’m running hard.”

The minor slip-up with the water bills shouldn’t overshadow his competence as a director, Mann said. “Does it affect my ability serve? It hasn’t since I’ve been on the board.”

Mann is a realtor who owns a ranch in Morgan Hill and a home in San Jose while operating a farming tractor company.

“My work speaks for itself. I still think I’m one of the stronger, one of the better working directors out there.”

His opponents for the seat are soon-to-be-termed-out Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage, San Jose dentist Robert Sepulveda and possibly Tom Kruse, a Gilroy vintner who has run for the office of District 1 supervisor twice and lost. As of Thursday afternoon, Gage and Sepulveda had filed candidate papers, while Kruse and Mann had pulled papers but not filed.

The water district sells water wholesale to companies or cities, such as Gilroy and Morgan Hill, for distribution while also acting as a flood protection agency. About 800 employees work for the district with the elected seven-member board of directors as the presiding stewards.

Since being appointed by the board to replace Sig Sanchez, Mann said he’s assembled a comprehensive guide to district facilities and services in South County, something that hasn’t been available to the public before. He said he has advocated for outreach, especially for well owners and high school students by pushing for committees that represent each group. He also traveled to Washington D.C. earlier this year to lobby for support and push for funding for the Upper Llagas Creek Flood Protection project.

Before he became more involved and more attune with water issues, Mann said he was “adamantly opposed to charging people for water out of our ground.” But after learning more about the district’s role, the importance of replenishing the groundwater is more clear.

Mann’s chief opponent is Gage, who he has butted heads with in the past.

As a county supervisor, Gage has served on committees directly affecting South County. He’s sits on the South County Joint Planning Advisory Committee and is a liaison for the San Martin Planning Advisory Committee. Gage’s experience includes serving on Gilroy’s city council from 1981 to 1991, as mayor for six years until 1997 and working 30 years in the private sector at IBM.

“There are a lot of problems on that board associated with working together and having common goals,” Gage said, pointing to his success on government committees. “I have what it takes,” Gage said.

A newcomer to the race is Roberto Sepulveda, who has lived in the county since 1961.

The term “Get involved,” is preached again and again, Sepulveda said. “I want to do something more for my community.”

Without any political experience and likewise any motivations that would muddy his intentions, Sepulveda said after attending the water district board meetings and talking to his neighbors, a different direction was needed.

“It seems to me, they need some change, some fresh blood and new ideas. I got tired about hearing the same people running over and over again. So I thought at least I can try, and see what’s going on,” he said.

Sepulveda said he’s just an everyday guy who would carry out the wishes of the people. He’s a dentist with his own private practice for 30 years in the Evergreen area of San Jose.

He values the small community feel even though District 1 is a large region with a range of concerns. Sepulveda doesn’t know much about water issues, doesn’t own a well or acres of property and hasn’t been a part of district committees, but that’s his appeal, he said.

“I would stick with dealing with water and for the good of the city and the county of Santa Clara County,” Sepulveda said.

While Sepulveda has filed his necessary papers, meaning he’s an official candidate, vintner Tom Kruse is still musing over the prospect because campaigning will coincide with his busiest time at his winery in Gilroy.

Since 1971, Kruse has served in a number of officers’ positions on the Santa Clara Valley Winegrowers’ Association, including president. He has served on the Santa Clara County Planning Commission, the San Martin Citizens Advisory Planning Board, and the county architectural and site approval committee. He most recently made an unsuccessful bid for District 1 county supervisor.

“I’ve always thought I can make a contribution to the water district. You hear so many things over the years, let’s say suggestions, that they can be doing a better job. So, I thought this is a first-hand opportunity to have a say in these matters,” Kruse said.

Kruse’s winery sits on two acres with one active well that he takes care of “the best way I know how,” adding his time on the Llagas Basin nitrate study committee educated well owners and farmers about reducing the amount of fertilizer in the best interest of the agriculture and the water.

“I make a living off of the land. I have always liked water … our well, well-drilling. It’s always been fascinating to me,” he said. Kruse reminisced briefly about digging a well as a young boy in Wisconsin; “I just thought that was so neat.”

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