Silicon Valley water board to elect new chair

B. Sakura Cannestra

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With the new year comes a new selection for Valley Water board chair who will be charged with steering members through controversial investigations and decisions.

Barbara Keegan, vice chair of the board of directors, hopes to fill the role—but is expecting some competition from other directors who may want the seat. Historically, the chair and vice chair rotated, but that system changed last year and the seven-member board will directly elect both positions tomorrow.

“We all have strong opinions because the work we do is important to us,” Keegan told San José Spotlight. “I think the chair’s role is to make sure everybody has the chance to be heard, and collectively, we can make decisions that are going to positively impact the community.”

Keegan said a woman’s perspective has not been represented recently, as the past few board chairs have been men. The current board chair is Director John L. Valera. The last woman to be chairperson was Director Nai Hsueh in 2020.

Valley Water board of directors from left: Tony Estremera, Nai Hsueh, Richard Santos, John Varela, Barbara Keegan, Jim Beall and Rebecca Eisenberg. Photo courtesy of Valley Water.

Voters first elected Keegan to the board in 2012. She is a civil engineer, which she said is a unique skill when it comes to district projects being reviewed or in the pipelines. She said there are several capital improvement projects the board is overseeing, and she wants the work done in an efficient manner, as delays increase costs.

Disagreements have plagued the Valley Water board of directors for the past few years. Most recently was a controversial measure passed in 2022 that increased the maximum number of board terms from three to four, capping service to 16 consecutive years.

To Keegan, it is critical the directors work together and communicate with each other respectfully. That sentiment was echoed by Directors Jim Beall and Richard Santos, who both said the next chair should be someone who can bring board members together so the projects in the pipeline move forward.

“The board relationship is a very important key,” Beall told San José Spotlight. “I think the chair’s job of bringing some training and skill development and working relationship development among board members is going to be very important, so that we show respect for one another and we’re able to function even though we might not agree on issues.”

Beall said he’s not interested in the chair position, and would like to see a chair who is able to unify the board. He added that in his experience, people can get caught up in the politics of a situation rather than focusing on the tangible issues the board needs to address.

“You’ve only got so many hours of the day, so I think it’s always a dilemma for any government institution, is focusing on the work that has to be done,” Beall said.

Santos said the next chair should be someone who does not have a personal agenda and works to bring the board together, adding directors don’t always agree. Keegan is the only person Santos has heard advocating for the chair seat, though he said he’s also interested.

“She’s out here making it a popularity contest,” Santos told San José Spotlight.

While Keegan could run for a fourth term, she plans to step down when her term ends in 2024, citing her disagreement with the extended term limits. She added she has been trying to find a woman who could run for her seat, but the search has been difficult.

The board of directors meets tomorrow at 11 a.m. to select a new chair. Learn more on the Valley Water website.

This story will be updated.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter. 



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2024-01-09 00:00:49 , San José Spotlight

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