Four candidates are running for three 4-year seats on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors, which oversees sewer, water, streetlights, open space maintenance, parks and recreation in the unincorporated community. The candidates are David Couch, Dennis Mayo, Erik “Yahmo Ahqha” Rydberg and George Wheeler. Election Day is Nov. 6.
The Union recently asked the candidates a series of questions.
For Erik “Yahmo Ahqha” Rydberg’s answers, click here.
For George Wheeler’s answers, click here.
For David Couch's answers, click here.
Below areDennis Mayo’s answers, unedited:
1. Why are you running for a seat on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors?
Mayo: I did decide to run one more time for the MCSD Board of Directors. I have been doing productive legislative policy work at our Board, regional, state and federal level with the specific goals of protecting our environment, local rural communities, our water and natural resources, and keeping a focus on promised alternative energy goals. I thank the MCSD Board of Directors for embracing these efforts and allowing me to help craft the policy changes we have been successful with and continue to work on. I have the energy to represent the rate-payers and McKinleyville one more time, and provide you with the service you deserve.
2. What is your occupation and what makes you qualified to serve on the MCSD board?
Mayo: Retired rancher, horse trainer and a continuing Type-A workaholic.
3. How many MCSD board meetings have you attended?
Mayo: I have attended over 150 MCSD meetings, Probably that many more on my local committee assignments, etc. My position on ACWA (The Association of California Water Agencies), my state, regional and federal lobby and policy work on our behalf, I can’t even count. Hundreds of hours on phone calls, webinars, rushed trips to Sacramento, Santa Rosa, and Washington D.C. working on policy and legislation necessary to protect small districts, low income rate payers and make MCSD competitive in grant funding cycles and reduce regulatory burdens. Work that has made MCSD and our region a major player. When we now go to the halls of Washington D.C. and Sacramento, they know McKinleyville Community Services District. They don’t just listen to us, they also often ask for our help and guidance. This has allowed me to help craft protections for our Mad River Watershed and legislation to stomp out illegal water diversions from pot grows. Regionally, I am in a position to help get additional needed water releases from the Potter Valley Dam for our Eel River fish stocks.
4. What’s the biggest challenge facing the district?
Mayo: Keeping rates low while complying with ever increasing state and federal mandates and requirements.
5. What is your position on the increase in water/sewer rates?
Mayo: Ouch. Ouch. Yeah, it’s needed. My bill’s damn high, too, from my perspective as a senior on a fixed income. I don’t just feel your pain, it’s my pain, too. State and federal regulations, clean water requirements, the loss of significant dollars from the pulp mill's closing, and the reality of necessary upkeep and replacement of our sewer/water lines has high and real costs. The MCSD has worked very hard to keep rates as low as possible. I personally have lobbied extensively for relief for low income rate-payers and disadvantaged communities at the state level. I helped defeat the onerous proposed state tax on drinking water. Feel free to contact me any time if you’d like to talk about the rate structure or any other MCSD related issues.
6. What, if any, improvements would you like to see with regard to parks and recreation?
Mayo: McKinleyville CSD has an amazing Park and Recreation Program. Tons of activities at our Recreation Center, Hiller Park soccer and baseball fields, a dog park, and our outstanding staff. We have a new Teen Center, a great partnership with the Boys & Girls Club, important after school and teen dance partnerships with our McKinleyville Schools. Our future sees a skate park, Washington Road and Hewitt Parks, a possible BMX track, and Mad River access from North Bank Road, and exciting community forest with trails connecting to our existing trail system. Our future is bright and exciting. So watch us grow.
7. Should the MCSD expand its powers?
Mayo: MCSD can expand its services, it’s up to the rate-payers as any new service must be paid for and voted on by MCSD rate-payers. One example of expanded services is our Park and Rec, which was not originally a part of our Water and Sewer mandate. A possible expansion, in my view, would be a solar charging station that would complement our solar array at our upgraded sewer facility. Special Districts work for their rate-payers. Right now focusing on enhancing our current operations, following our mission statement and watching our bottom line is our best path.
8. What is the district’s biggest accomplishment in the last five years?
Mayo: MCSD is a model in the state of California for the 21st century vision of governance. A direct people to representative model. The rate-payers fund the District to address specific needed services. The MCSD makes those services reality. What makes MCSD great is our vision. Becoming a State awarded District of Distinction and Transparency, training all of our directors in best practices of equity and discrimination, sexual harassment, conflict of interest, Brown Act/Open Meeting laws and finance have jelled the MCSD Board and staff into a ‘rock star’ for our rate-payers. We, simply put, are doing ‘it’ right. Our honored designations also put us in a higher level for grant funding and insurance rate savings, etc., and gives us great credibility with our state and federal representatives.
With a common Board understanding of our mission, our process, our responsibility to our rate-payers and to each other as valued Baord members has allowed us to: (1) Complete our important sewer treatment plant upgrade, (2) Settle the MCSD initiated lawsuit with Humboldt County that made onerous low income housing mandates for McKinleyville equitable and helped usher in our long sought McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee, (3) Bring our solar array project to reality, (4) Develop our 100 yr, sewer/water line upgrades plan, (5) Develop important Disaster and Legacy Planning and Strategic Planning.
9. What is the district’s biggest failure in the last five years?
Mayo: The untimely death of our General Manager, Norman Shopay.
10. How should the district interact with the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee?
Mayo: This is, and will be, an important beneficial partnership for MCSD and the Mckinleyville Community. MCSD will continue to have an important seat on the McMac. I, along with a diverse group in Mckinleyville worked on this concept for years and continue to develop our working relationship. So, in a short version, MCSD’s authorities are clearly spelled out. We provide the services our public pays for. We expect issues on these services to be addressed at MCSD, not the McMac. Other social and community issues will be addressed through the forum at the McMac. Developing these clear lines and cooperating partnership status is on the plate right now, I have great respect for our community members and the McMac chairperson, John Corbett, and the McMac Committee , and know that we will develop an awesome win/win game plan.
11. Should McKinleyville pursue incorporation and what role, if any, would the district have in that process?
Mayo: In my opinion as a community member, my answer is “no.” As a MCSD Board Member that will depend on many variables including public will. MCSD has a $9 million dollar budget now. Our rate-payers are feeling the impacts of sewer/water rate increases right now. I think the questions of how much money Humboldt County takes in from this community and how much bang for the buck we are getting are fair questions. I’m not sure it will be easy to ferret that out. As an MCSD Board Member, I will keep an open mind. There is much more info I can share on this subject, but we really don’t have enough string space for it here. One point though: how might a community of about 16,000 feel about paying additional taxes to come up with at least $22 million per year to fund incorporation? And it could be a lot more than that.
12. What projects would you like the district to pursue?
Mayo: Continue sewer/water line upgrades, look for enterprise opportunities like solar recharging stations, community forest, watch our bottom line.
13. What are the last two books that you’ve read?
Mayo: The Federalist Papers, for the umpteenth time, The Buffalo Soldier by Chris Bohjalaian, Circe by Madeline Miller
14. What’s your idea of a good time?
Mayo: Riding a good horse, teaching kids the joy of riding and the responsibility that it requires.
15. What else would you like voters to know about you?
Mayo: I came to this position with no political agenda and with the simple desire to serve this wonderful community. I have worked at this position with no political agenda. I have taken this opportunity to pay-it-forward very seriously and I will, if given another term, continue to give you 100%.