A city that's trying to clean up its water system lost a central part of the effort this week.
Kathryn Reyes, who used to work as the public works superintendent for Livingston, took the job of public works director in Gustine and worked her first day there Monday.
Gustine City Manager Greg Greeson said Reyes is a welcome arrival.
"We wanted somebody with the appropriate certificates just like any small city would, and she does have those, both in wastewater as well as water, which is important to us," he said. "But equally important is the fact that she has actually run a public works department in a smaller town like Livingston."
Reyes' knowledge of water quality issues facing the Central Valley was a key selling point. "She's familiar with the kind of issues that come up in a town like ours," Greeson said.
Before Reyes, Gustine had filled the role of public works director with a temporary part-timer.
While Gustine officials are excited about the addition, the move adds a twist to Livingston's effort to improve its tap water, which has several quality issues, including many contaminants and, at times, is brown in color.
However, Livingston Councilman Gurpal Samra said the change won't interfere with the city's efforts to clean up its water. "We know what the issues are," he said.
Most recently, Livingston started phase two of its water improvement plan that will swap out another third of the problematic water distribution lines in the city. Officials are also implementing filtration systems on the wells to reduce contaminants.
On average, water pipelines in Livingston are about 70 years old, and most of the brown water is caused by rust and scaling in the pipes.
Despite the loss of institutional knowledge, the city has a plan in place to improve water quality and is staying on schedule, Samra said. Reyes' position will be replaced, and how the city will go about it will be the responsibility of City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez.
Ramirez and Reyes couldn't be reached for comment.
Though the change came suddenly, Samra suspected that Reyes may have seen more opportunity in Gustine than in Livingston, which eliminated the public works director position years back as a cost-saving measure.
"She just left all of a sudden, and I'm not sure why," Samra said Monday. "She will be missed. She's done a great job for us, and I have no doubt in my mind that she'll do a great job for Gustine."
Reyes' starting salary in Gustine is $60,000 a year.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.