The retention of two Payson Strawberry Water Improvement District incumbents and the election of a third who seems to have ties to the incumbents could mean its business as usual in the two small mountain hamlets.
In the Nov. 2 general election, Michael Greer retained his PSWID board seat with 740 votes, as did Ron Calderon, who garnered 704.
Michael Claxton, a candidate who appeared on campaign advertising along with Greer and Calderon, won a board seat with 710 votes.
Both Howard Matthews, 535 votes, and Marvin Mortensen, 547 votes, were defeated in their bids to be elected.
Greer contends the election results confirm water users agree with the way the board is running the water district.
“I think that a summer with no shortages, restrictions and no water hauling speaks for itself,” he said. “I believe the majority of the voters were able to sort through the facts and fictions and let our accomplishments be the deciding factor.”
Both Greer and Claxton deem the goal of the board should now be the acquisition of new water sources.
Greer says the board should “close escrow on the SH3 (Strawberry Hollow) well and complete the purchase of the Milk Ranch Well.”
Buying the Milk Ranch Well has been a hot issue mostly because an appraisal has not been done, the well is not proven and hook up to the existing water system could be costly.
Greer says he favors the purchase, “if it’s in the best interest of the community and our water future.”
Claxton refused to comment regarding purchase conditions saying, “I don’t think it’s my place to discuss conditions.”
Greer says under “the current development plan, the Milk Ranch Well is pumping water and it appears that it is going to be a great asset for the community and district.”
Calderon was not available for comment.
Both Greer and Claxton expressed their thanks to voters for their support in the election.
Greer lauded voters’ “vision and tenacity in helping to secure a successful water future for Pine and Strawberry communities.”
Claxton says he wanted to “(assure voters) I will do my best to always work for the water users and their interests.”
During the campaign, Matthews was outspoken over past board activities saying he found “unacceptable” that board members “brought about the resignations of a professional hydrologist, a large, well-respected engineering firm, and operations manager and a chairman of the board who had extensive experience in water utility engineering.”
Matthews was referring to the resignations of former board president Bill Haney in July, former general manager Harry Jones’ decision to step away from PSWID a month earlier and at a May 25 board meeting, the submission of resignations from Tetra Tech engineers Tanner Henry and Garrett Goldman and hydrologist Mike Ploughe of Highland Water Resources.
In resigning, Henry, Goldman and Ploughe all cited as a reason the inability to work with PSWID board members.
Mortensen, a board member at the time Brooke Utilities operated the two town’s water companies did not criticize the past board, emphasizing instead members should operate “under open investigation of all implications of decisions to be made and being transparent.”
Mortensen and Matthews were both backed by the watchdog group Water for Pine Strawberry and their spokesperson Sam Schwalm. Schwalm has called the election results “a disappointing outcome.”