Water users in the tiny mountain hamlets of Pine and Strawberry have the opportunity to choose the direction the water improvement district takes in the next few years by electing three governing board members from a field of five candidates.
The candidates are: Mike Greer, Ron Calderon, Mike Claxton, Howard Matthews and Marvin Mortensen.
Greer and Calderon are incumbents.
The board will determine how issues are solved, where money is spent, what taxes might be levied, what new projects and repairs will be undertaken, how to handle water shortages, water rate changes and numerous other concerns that affect the quality of life in the Northern Gila County towns.
The PSWID took control of the towns’ two water companies in October 2009, purchasing both for $3.5 million from previous owner Brooke Utilities.
In an effort to help readers make good decisions on the three candidates they will vote for, we submitted four brief questions to each of those running.
The questions and answers follow.
1. What do you think are the major issues or problems facing the members of the board?
Claxton: Trying to stay ahead of the water demanded for the residents of Pine and Strawberry. And doing so without a larger increase to the consumers.
Greer: Short-term problem is to put new water sources into the system. Long-term problem is repair infrastructure and create a master plan that secures our water future.
Matthews: Issue 1: The PSWID board has recently acquired a privately owned water utility. The community now expects the board to create a stable, affordable water utility that will enhance the lives of all who are or will be living here.
Issue 2: The board must create an efficient management structure to operate the system.
Issue 3: The board must acquire a stable supply of water sufficient to meet the usage requirements of the Pine/ Strawberry community.
Issue 4: The board must upgrade the water delivery infrastructure to provide for reliable delivery of water throughout the community.
Issue 5: The board must seek the professional help it needs to accomplish the above, and then listen to the professional advice it receives.
Calderon: Hiring a management company with the proper knowledge and resources. Improving our total system and adding fire hydrants. Future water problems, all of Arizona has a problem with water shortages.
Mortensen: Long-term acquisition of water. We currently have an adequate water supply due to moisture received in the past couple of the years, but this might not always be the situation.
2. How can the issues be solved?
Claxton: By making good, sound purchases that will benefit the water consumers of Pine and Strawberry for years to come.
Calderon: By investigating the cost and problems associated with the acquisition of water, be it purchasing existing wells or exploring new sources, or a combination of both possibilities.
Matthews: Issue 1 will be solved by solving issues two through five.
Issue 2: The current board seems to want to hire an outside management firm. I would prefer hiring a local manager. I believe it would be less costly and would not return us to a management team headquartered elsewhere. That is too similar to what we had with Brooke Utilities.
Issue 3: We must acquire and/or develop a large enough number of deep wells to provide for our needs regardless of possible drought conditions. The board had agreed at one time to follow such a course, but seems to have backed away from that plan. I think we need to return to that course of action.
Issue 4: The board needs to have an engineering firm evaluate the delivery system and make recommendations for appropriate upgrading and storage capacity. The board can then determine how to accomplish the upgrades.
Issue 5: The current board has recently brought about the resignations of a professional hydrologist, a large, well-respected engineering firm, an operations manager and a chairman of the board who had extensive experience in water utility engineering. This is unacceptable.
We must get past the point where the solution is to ignore the message and kill the messenger. The board has seven members so that there can be a diversity of opinions and discussion can bring about the most appropriate solutions.
Greer: We can solve the problems by purchasing the existing deep aquifer wells in Pine and Strawberry. We need to secure grant money and WIFA money to create a master plan that includes an infrastructure repair plan.
Mortensen: By investigating the cost and problems associated with the acquisition of water, be it purchasing existing wells or exploring new sources, or a combination of both possibilities.
3. What will you bring to the board that will help in the problem solving process?
Mortensen: Open investigation of all implications of decisions to be made and being transparent (i.e. make the public aware of the effects of choices).
Greer: I bring clarity to the issues, which stifle our progress, I bring passion to problem solving, and I bring almost two years of experience as the treasurer of the existing Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District. Honesty and integrity.
Claxton: I deal with problems on a daily basis as a superintendent and as a board member and I will not be afraid to voice my opinion and do my best to protect the residents of Pine and Strawberry against needless spending or needless purchases that are not in the best interests of the residents of Pine and Strawberry.
Calderon: I believe my 30 years as a business owner will help me solve these problems.
Matthews: I have 40 years of experience as an engineer in TV broadcasting solving problems. I work well with others and can recognize good ideas even when they are not my own. I also have spent a good deal of time on water issues since moving to Pine nearly 20 years ago.
4. Tell a bit about yourself (work, previous boards served on, how long in Pine, anything personal you’d like to share).
Claxton: I am 52 years old. I have just celebrated my second wedding anniversary to my lovely wife Michelle. I have three beautiful daughters, (Lauren, Dani Lynn and Becka) and recently became a grandpa to my first granddaughter named Summer-Rain.
I love to hunt, fish and spend time in the outdoors with my family and friends. I work for MTV General Contractors Inc. in the Valley as a project superintendent and have since 2002. I’ve lived in Pine since 2001 as a full-time resident.
I will work very hard for the residents of Pine and Strawberry to ensure they have an adequate water supply and try to keep the needless spending out of our community.
Matthews: I was in TV broadcasting from 1952 to 1990. The last 34 years were with CBS in Chicago. I began there working in television studios as part of the technical crew on programs originating in our studios and elsewhere. Later I moved into technical maintenance.
In 1975, I moved into engineering-management, responsible for the maintenance department and for the design and installation of new systems.
I was deeply involved in creating the Pine/Strawberry Water Improvement District and served on the board for five years. I was board chairman for the first four years of its existence. I have a great interest in seeing this community’s water problems become nothing more than an historical fact.
I was married to Barbara Gonseth Matthews for nearly 60 years until her death two years ago. It was because of her health issues that I resigned from the board.
We had five sons, of which three are surviving. We moved to Pine in the spring of 1991.
Mortensen: My wife and I have owned our property in Pine since 1979. We came here frequently since then and moved here full time in August 2000 upon my retirement. I have previously been on the water board when we were trying to become free of private ownership. I worked for a California university for 13 years as the head non-faculty person of a chemistry department with responsibility for six employees with an average of 23 student assistants.
I’ve had to work with department heads and the university purchasing agent since I was responsible for the department’s budget purchasing supplies and equipment. I am a retired chemist from Phelps Dodge Corporation.
Greer: I have resided in Pine and Strawberry for just under five years, I am a business owner in the Rim Country, I was an instructor at Gateway Community College teaching electrical technology as adjunct faculty, I served with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, currently I am volunteering to help start the Gila County Mounted Posse. I am an avid fisherman, hunter and enjoy riding our horses.
Calderon: My wife and I have lived in Pine since December of 2005 and we are very fond of the area. Currently I am on the board of the Pine/Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee and the Water Board. I have helped raise money for different organizations in our community over the years.
My professional career has been as a business owner. I owned four supermarkets in the Seattle area from 1974 to 1995. After retiring, we moved to Phoenix in 1995 and I wanted to get back into the business arena once again.
We owned a wholesale business that entailed importing baskets directly from China in addition to a gourmet food manufacturing company for which we created the recipes and processed the products in the Valley from 1995 to 2006. I did most of the design work myself, which included label design and photography.
I retired for the second time in June 2006 and I am ready to give back to the community of Pine/Strawberry. I believe my past experience will enable me to be of great service to our unique community.
My wife Katie and I have been partners in business as well as partners in a marriage of 40 wonderful years. I believe in giving back to the community, as well as being an involved citizen.
Supporting our fire department and water department is very important to me as they are so important to the citizens of our Pine and Strawberry communities.