It’s not just about the “poop tape.” Yes, the actions of Kevin Gonzalves in 2008 – when he acted on a two-year-old grudge and defecated in front of the office of his former employer in Stanislaus County – were disgusting, ridiculously juvenile, vaguely obscene and criminally inappropriate. They were also caught on tape, which recently, and embarrassingly, became public.
But there are other, much better reasons not to vote for Gonzalves for a second term on Merced Irrigation District board.
▪ He’s been accused of stealing water – $200,000 worth – from MID; an ongoing dispute.
▪ There’s the inappropriate request he made of the district for a special pipeline to his property.
▪ There’s his volatile nature, which has resulted in misdemeanor vandalism charges against him during his divorce.
▪ There’s the fact he’s ended up on the losing side of so many 4-1 or 3-2 votes and his several absences from board meetings.
If you believe MID has done a good job managing its water, the fight against the state’s water grab and providing electricity service, you should realize it’s more often been in spite of Gonzalves rather than because of him.
Suzy Hultgren of Cressy is eminently more qualified to represent Division 4. She is passionate about fighting for the district’s water rights, would make prudent decisions about water sales and smart decisions about expanding the district’s electricity service.
There’s another candidate, Sam Sahota, but it appears his reason for running is disgruntlement over a decision made by the district. A personal beef is not a good enough reason to vote for anyone.
Hultgren, on the other hand, appears to be exceptionally well prepared for the post. She has served on the board before, is a dairy farmer and cattle rancher, and she absolutely understands the district’s most fundamental duty to constituents.
“Protecting water rights is our top priority,” she told a member of the Sun-Star editorial board. “We should fight that battle as far as we can to protect our water. The Delta is not our issue. We didn’t develop it; the state needs to fix it without taking our water.”
She understands, especially in a drought, the need to consider water sales. But she wants to keep any water the district sells in the Merced River basin – an important criteria.
When it comes to electricity, she believes the district is doing an excellent job providing for its 8,300 residential customers. Hultgren would be cautious about expanding service beyond the current footprint, but recognizes that many others who live within the district could benefit from rates that are a fraction of those charged by PG&E.
That she is the first cousin of MID general manager John Sweigard is common knowledge, but it shouldn’t be held against either of them.
“I can disagree with him if I have to,” she said, “but I think he makes good decisions. I trust him, and I think he trusts me to do what I think is best.”
Perhaps most importantly, Hultgren would like to see the board get back to business. With the state preparing to demand more water from the Merced River for environmental purposes, she feels directors must be entirely serious about fighting to defend the district’s century-old rights. There is no time to be distracted by squabbles and juvenile actions by board members.
“I’d like to see a cohesive board,” she said, “and not spend time with the nonsense that’s been going on there.”
The nonsense is almost entirely attributable to one man – Kevin Gonzalves. He doesn’t belong on the Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors. Suzy Hultgren does.