news Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard
Rosemary Menard has her work cut out for her as she steps into the role of water director for the City of Santa Cruz.
Menard fills the vacancy left by Bill Kocher, a vocal proponent of desalination who had served as the city's water director since 1986.
comes to the city in the wake of contentious discussion over desalination as well as what meteorologists have declared to be the driest January in California on record.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the state, and municipalities throughout California face looming water shortages.
sat down with Good Times
on a recent Monday afternoon in her
still-being-unpacked office on Locust Street, just a week after she
arrived in her
Coincidentally, it was just a day after the area saw some much-needed rain, though the 0.4 inches that fell then didn't make much of an impact on our significant watershed depletion, Menard
"We need about a foot of rain in order to get the watershed saturated," she
explains, pushing a strand of shoulder-length hair from her
A week after Menard
started the job, the city's Water Commission voted to recommend increasing a Stage 1 Water Alert to a Stage 3 Water Alert.
Should the city council vote for the increase at its Feb. 11 meeting, which takes place after this issue goes to press, customer water limits will be implemented and financial penalties will be meted out for exceeding them.
The change would increase conservation from a voluntary 5 percent to a mandatory 25 percent.
The city lists a number of ways residents can conserve on its website, cityofsantacruz.com.
As water director, Menard will oversee a department that serves 90,000 customers in the Santa Cruz and Live Oak areas, during a time when the city has ramped up efforts to include residents in water supply discussions.
That includes the pending formation of a citizens' water supply advisory committee, among other outreach procedures.
The drought will be a major priority in the weeks and months to come.
"We need to ensure we are managing our resources effectively," Menard
"I've been around enough and seen enough to know that having a fresh set of eyes is often an asset, but I've been very impressed by the quality of and the knowledge of the staff here."
City officials announced Menard
's hiring on Jan. 16.
"We are very pleased to have Ms. Menard come aboard at a critical point in our water supply discussions," City Manager Martin Bernal said in a press release.
Though new to Santa Cruz
is no stranger to the greater San Francisco Bay Area, having grown up in San Leandro.
parents still live there, in the house she
grew up in.
is now adjusting to Santa Cruz
after a stint in Reno, living in a furnished vacation rental in Seabright as she
Most recently she served as director of community services and water resources for Washoe County in Nevada.
Prior to that, she
held similar positions in Seattle and Portland.
She earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Washington and, years later, earned a master's degree in public administration from the same institution.
move from biology to public policy is largely attributed to an internship she
did with a Seattle city councilmember's office.
As part of that position, she
had to evaluate the budget for the Seattle water department and got to know many people within that division.
That led to a position as the water conservation manager for the City of Seattle.
"From there, I've had a lot of opportunities to grow as a manager and develop my skills," as well as provide municipalities with leadership and her
expertise in problem solving, she
Though the new gig brings numerous challenges, Menard
says that is a big part of the appeal for her
"Here is a really great opportunity to really use those skills," she
says education on water conservation and maintaining an informed populace will be key focal points of her
"Figuring out how to become partners with the community is one of the challenges we have to address," says Menard
"That's one of the things I'd really like to work on-I would expect to have a lot of interaction with the water supply committee-though I don't know entirely what it's going to look like [yet]."
Having been in the position as water director for a short time, Menard
is still in the assessment process.
"It's extremely important to be data-driven and not jump to conclusions," she
says, adding that she
imagines the next couple of months to be something of a learning and listening tour.
emphasizes that a major part of the messaging will be that everyone needs to do their part to conserve water.
and department staff will be working with the current framework for water shortage planning and finding ways to adapt it to the current conditions.
That will likely involve looking at ways to incentivize and encourage conservation, while also looking at possibilities of penalization.
"Everyone needs to be looking at whatever they can do," she
"I'm looking forward to getting to know the community and working really collaboratively to address the issues we have," Menard
I have known Ms. Menard
for many years and her
advice has always served me well.
will serve this position very well in these turbulent and troubled water procurement times.