Water board fills vacancy
Names first female board member in more than a decade
The Valley of the Moon Water District board got a new member Tuesday night, electing its first female director in more than a decade, but not before its four sitting members deadlocked on the decision. The appointment of Meghan Stuart filled the vacancy on the five-member board left by Mark Bramfitt when he resigned his seat after 12 years in October.
Shortly after resigning, Bramfitt was appointed interim general manager of the district, filling in for Krishna Kumar, who left to take a similar position in Marin. Bramfitt, who is seeking the open, permanent GM position, sat at the meeting, his first as interim general manager, and Kumar, whose service was recognized at Tuesday’s meeting, was also present, making a final report at Bramfitt’s request.
The appointment of the fifth board member was a fairly pressing matter, as it had been nearly 60 days since Bramfitt resigned; the vacancy was announced on Oct. 16. If the board fails to fill a vacancy before 60 days, the county Board of Supervisors may appoint a replacement. The new appointee serves until the next general election in 2014.
The two candidates being considered for the open seat, J. Larry Coulombe of the Springs and Stuart, also of the Springs, were each interviewed by the board at the meeting and asked the same set of five questions. Coulumbe, a semi-retired contractor who hails from New England and still sports the telltale accent, impressed the board with his record of service as a director of the Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency in Southern California and his background with water issues.
Stuart, a mother of two teenagers in Valley schools, came across as poised and articulate, telling the board she would call upon her 20-years as a paralegal and training in analysis to serve on the board. When board member Ed Kenny questioned her about her rhetoric degree from Berkley, Stuart first joked that some people call it a “BA in BS,” but then explained that it’s basically a prelaw degree.
Immediately following the interviews, the board publicly considered the candidates and put the matter to an internal vote. Kenny, the first to vote, said he considered Coulombe’s experience the greater asset and cast his vote for him. Jon Foreman, who himself has sat on the board for just three months, sided with Kenny, but said, “We are blessed by having two such well-qualified candidates.”
Mark Heneveld, board vice president, brought up the issue of diversity on the board, starting his assessment by saying, “I’m tired of looking at you ugly guys,” to the all-male board. But he added more seriously that Stuart, “might give us a little different perspective.”
The vote then came to board president Ron Prushko, who could have decided it for Coulumbe, but, in fact, deadlocked the board by voting for Stuart. Prushko said, “I have been on this board for 12 years, and we haven’t had a woman on here in all that time.” Bristling at what some might think of a board dominated by older white men, Prushko said, “It’s not that this is a good old boy’s club.”
Then, with the board deadlocked, Prusko requested that the newly appointed interim manager, Bramfitt, cast the deciding vote. Bramfitt, in his first day in a temporary position, declined to cast a vote, and instead called on the board to discuss the matter further and try to come to a consensus.
Though he did counsel the board, “You might think about filling this chair with something you don’t have.” The discussion went around the board and came back to Foreman, who said, “This leaves me in a hot spot,” after which he changed his vote and the board moved to appoint Stuart to the vacant chair.
Stuart then took the oath and her seat on the board as it then went into closed session.