City Council, Chamber of Commerce endorse Santos for Water Board

Gilroy farmer Ralph Santos of El Camino Packing has been endorsed by Gilroy City Council and the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce for the vacant seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water Board.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board of directors will appoint a new director to take the seat left vacant by Don Gage, who left in the middle of his first term and was sworn in as the City of Gilroy’s mayor last week.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s six remaining board members voted Tuesday to fill the empty seat through an appointment process, rather than via a special election that could have cost the county up to $1 million.

Two longtime South County residents have already shown interest in applying for the vacant director’s seat.

Cherry farmer and El Camino Packing owner Ralph Santos, 61, is interested in taking the open seat. Gage gave him a full-fledged, glowing endorsement and recommended Gilroy City Council do the same during their regular Monday night meeting.

“The board has three lawyers, one politician, union members, environmentalists, but no farmers. They don’t need any more lawyers. They don’t need any more politicians. They need a farmer to represent the agricultural needs in the county,” Gage said.

Competing for the seat is Dennis Kennedy, a 74-year-old engineer and former Morgan Hill mayor.

Kennedy served as mayor of Morgan Hill for about 12 years until he retired from that office in 2006.

During his mayoral tenure, Kennedy frequently dealt with downtown Morgan Hill’s flooding problem, and tried to gain traction to start construction on the Llagas Creek Flood Protection project which would solve the recurring flooding during heavy rainfall. The SCVWD is a local sponsor of that project, which is yet to be built.

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has also endorsed Santos as Gage’s replacement on the water board.

In a Nov. 21 letter to water board chair Linda LeZotte, Chamber president Susan Valenta said the organization’s board of directors unanimously chose to endorse Santos.

“Mr. Santos understands the needs of our region, and we are confident that he will make sound decisions as a member of the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors,” the letter said.

The unexpired term for the new director will end Dec. 5, 2014, according to SCVWD staff.

Interested applicants have until Jan. 11, 2013 to submit their names for consideration. Applications should include letters of interest that include the applicants’ name, address, current occupation, summary of interest in the position and relevant qualifications and experience.

The board will interview candidates Jan. 28, 2013.

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