This past election season presented challenges unlike any other, and I was proud to be on the ballot as a candidate to represent my fellow community members in the third electoral division of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency to serve on the Board of Directors .
Although I was a first time candidate, I understood the importance of picking the right messages to share with voters, and with the help of dedicated local students and friends, I did my best to reach out and share those messages with as many voters as possible. I’m proud that our hard work and persistence paid off, and I am now honored to have earned a seat on the board.
People often ask me why I ran for a seat on the board of the water agency as opposed to other more well-known elected positions. My short answer is because I’m a mother who wants our families to drink clean water and wants to see future generations continue to have plentiful amounts of safe water available to them. We need decision-makers who acknowledge that human actions are causing the climate to change at an alarming pace, who look to science and data, who honor the voices of younger generations that have climate anxiety and who bring the right questions to the table. As someone who has spent 10 years in the field of public health and then pivoted to the field of sustainable natural resources, I felt I could bring a unique perspective and be the voice that is the reminder that true sustainability requires decision-making that balances consideration for our health and well-being, our wallets and our environment.
During the campaign, my team and I had the pleasure of having conversations with over a thousand community members. Many people did not realize that our local water agency has a Board of Directors that makes decisions to guide the work of the water agency and wanted to know more. We shared with community members that the board votes on issues that influence how much we are charged for our water and how that money is spent on costs related to water acquisition, infrastructure, contaminant removal, labor and more.
So what do I want to do with my time in this seat? As a candidate, it is easy to create a list of things you think could be done better, but I was deliberate about my list of priorities based on what I thought was realistic and achievable in four years. First, let’s talk about the most pressing current issue of water quality. Our community is one that has to figure out how to best deal with a number of contaminants in our groundwater, and this effort is currently drawing a significant amount of resources. The scientific community has established exposure guidelines for some of these contaminants and is currently working to determine guidelines for others. I will be keeping an eye on the science around these contaminants, the developing guidelines, and how we are responding locally through my perspective and experience in public health.
Second, there is the issue of affordability. The agency is currently working through the process of reassessing the rates we pay for our water, and I will be advocating for the most affordable options for our ratepayers. I am also encouraging the use of any federal/state funds available to help with debt relief for families whose incomes are affected by COVID-19.
Third, as the impacts of our changing climate become more clear and emergent, I will be looking to ensure that sustainability of our water is at the forefront of our minds and a part of the discussions related to our water resources. Specifically, I will continue to support efforts that protect our groundwater recharge areas, appropriately expand the use of recycled water for irrigation, remove invasive plants in the Santa Clara riverbed and expand the promotion of water-wise landscaping and gardening. Additionally, I would like to continue to build on the outreach programs to the local schools to include a way for high school and college students who are interested in the policy side of water management to have a pathway to gain that insight as well.
Lastly, but just as importantly, I would like to ensure that community members understand how their water agency is addressing issues they care about, know where to find more information and feel welcome to attend and comment at any of the public meetings and/or workshops.
Speaking of which, if you are a person who likes to give public comment, this is your time to shine. There are a number of planning efforts currently happening at the water agency that require a public comment period and your input and perspectives are valuable. I will be sharing these opportunities through my social media accounts (@kathye4scvwater), and I encourage you to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Your voice is the best tool in my toolbox to help me understand your thoughts on issues and implement any change you would like to see. I look forward to hearing from you.
Disclaimer: the above was written by Kathye Armitage herself and not on behalf of the board.