Hunter beats Pimentel for MID seat

Atwater farmer Wil Hunter is the new Merced Irrigation District board member to represent Division 5.

In a close election, he appears to have defeated incumbent Billy Pimentel, who had been on the MID board for 16 years. “I feel very positive — I put some important issues on the table,” Hunter said. “I’m looking forward to addressing the water problems in the district.”

Hunter had 1,559 votes at 10:15 p.m. while Pimentel had 1,302 with 49 of 62 precincts reporting.

One of these problems, he said, was that MID this year stopped the irrigation season early and sold surface water to the United State Bureau of Reclamation. Water that could have gone to growers, he added.

That was a reason voter Paula Culotta of Atwater said she supported Hunter at the polls on Tuesday. “I hope he’ll bring some common sense to the board,” she said. “It needs some fresh voices. Someone who understands the water issues for agriculture.”