Schmidt wins District 7 seat on Valley Water board
Environmental lawyer vows to bring reform to the utility
The newly created seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District's board of directors will be filled by Brian Schmidt, a 43-year-old environmental lawyer from Mountain View.
"I'm very happy," Schmidt said of winning the District 7 seat, noting that he and his opponent, Lou Becker, maintained civility throughout the race.
"Personally, I congratulate him and wish him the best," Becker said. "I'm sure he'll do a good job."
Schmidt received 56 percent of the vote, while Becker, the 76-year-old former Los Altos city councilman, received 44 percent, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. A total of 36,969 votes were cast in the District 7 election.
Throughout the race both candidates stressed that they would bring reform to the public utility, which is responsible for 10 percent of Mountain View's water and provides oversight and maintenance to water related structures, such as flood basins and trails running from Palo Alto down to the South Bay.
"I think we have a fair amount of agreement on the changes that should be made," Becker said of his opponent. "I think that Brian will move ahead and work to make those changes."
Schmidt said that he would push to move the public board of directors' meetings from their current weekday morning time to weekday evenings, making it easier for community members who work during the day to attend. He said he would also work to reverse a recent decision to increase pay to the board of directors.
Right now board members are paid on a per diem basis — $260 for attending district-related meetings, up to 10 meetings per month. These can be advisory meetings, public meetings with district constituents, briefings with the district's CEO and board of directors meetings, to name a few. Directors also may be reimbursed for any expenses they incur in the execution of their duties.
Schmidt said he would like to see those payments cut in half.
Looking further down the road, Schmidt said he would eventually like to see term limits paired back for all board members. Measure C, which passed with an overwhelming 75 percent of the vote, establishes a three-term limit on all board members elected after Dec. 3, 2010. Schmidt said he would like all board members, regardless of when they were initially elected, to be limited to three four-year terms.
"You need tighter term limits in an office where incumbents have such an advantage," he said, noting that in local elections incumbents are difficult to defeat.
This is the first time the seat has come up for a vote. It was created after Valley Water's board of directors approved a redistricting plan in May. District 7 comprises Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno and Los Gatos.