Glen Wild ousted Mike Serpa from the Modesto Irrigation District board Tuesday, while incumbents Tom Van Groningen and Paul Warda easily won re-election.
Wild, who had criticized Serpa's frequent clashes with other MID officials, got 2,248 votes, or 61 percent, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting.
He said he will bring a spirit of cooperation to the board as it deals with electricity rates, renewable energy mandates and water rights over the next four years.
"Nobody is going to always agree -- I understand that," said Wild, a retired sign company owner. "I'm hoping it's a civil discussion."
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Serpa, who portrayed himself as a ratepayer advocate willing to question the status quo, received 1,447 votes, or 39 percent.
"The voters have spoken, and they'll get what they asked for," Serpa said. He declined to comment further.
Serpa, a real estate appraiser and former Modesto City Council member, was elected to the MID board in 2005 with 57 percent of the votes in a three-way race.
Wild and Serpa vied in Division 2, central Modesto.
Van Groningen won a fourth term in Division 3, mainly northeast Modesto, with 2,725 votes, or 60 percent, with 98 percent of the precincts reporting.
"For the district generally, I'm pleased that we have a sense of direction that will be in the best interest of those we serve," said Van Groningen, a retired chancellor of the Yosemite Community College District.
He said the next four years will be a challenge as the board balances ratepayers' interests with the need to keep the district financially sound and to add renewable power.
Division 3 challenger Richard Harriman got 1,794 votes, or 40 percent. He is an attorney who advocated for energy and water conservation, renewable energy, and more transparency from the MID staff.
Warda, a 15-year incumbent, received 1,629 votes, or 54.5 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. He ran in Division 4, including Salida, northwest Modesto and nearby farmland.
He said a key issue in his new term will be the federal relicensing of Don Pedro Reservoir, which could force the MID to increase Tuolumne River releases to benefit fish.
"I think people realize that we've got to protect what's rightfully ours, and they wanted experience on the board," said Warda, a walnut farmer and retired vice president of printing operations for Tenet Health Care.
Division 4 challenger Ted Donham received 852 votes, or 28.5 percent. He soon will retire from a 33-year career in the MID's power operations and said he was especially concerned about the district's debt load.
Brad Johnson withdrew from the Division 4 race and endorsed Donham, but he remained on the ballot and got 487 votes, or 16 percent.
It was among the liveliest elections in recent years for the MID, which often has had uncontested seats and relatively mild issues.
This year, electricity rates promised to be a major topic, but it faded after the board in August canceled a major increase thanks to reduced wholesale power costs.
The board also pulled out of a transmission line project that had riled many people in its possible route across northern and eastern Stanislaus County.
All three of Tuesday night's winners also topped their rivals in campaign contributions as of mid-October.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2385.