For one longtime San Lorenzo Valley District employee, the opportunity to serve as District Manager was never in his general plan. But with the departure of former District Manager Brian Lee in August, Rick Rogers, director of operations, stepped forward asking to be considered for the position to help lead the district forward.
“I thought I had something to offer,” Rogers said in an interview with the Press Banner. “I have sat in board meetings. I have talked to people. I have sat in people’s living rooms—and I think I know what they want and I think I can help facilitate that to the board.”
On Oct. 18 the board directors announced the hiring of Rogers as the new district manager. Rogers, who prior to serving as interim district manager in Lee’s absence, was formerly the district’s director of operations. A resident of Brookdale since 1968, Rogers started working with SLVWD at age 19 and has been employed with the district since.
“I first started out working for the district by installing fencing as a part-time job during a summer vacation in between school,” Rogers said. “After that job ended, the district manager at the time asked me to come work for the district as a water quality technician/ maintenance person. Since then I have pretty much worked every job since and continued to work myself up the ladder so to speak.”
Rogers has continuously been employed with SLVWD for 42 years, but according to Rogers becoming district manager was never his intent. But after Lee resigned, Rogers decided that with several capital improvement projects outstanding, it was in the best interest of the district to have a person who was trained and ready to get to work right away.
In his new role, Rogers said, his priorities are to improve the district’s infrastructure by moving forward with the capital improvement projects, as well as establish and maintain lines of communication between the district and the community.
“I see the district in fairly great shape,” Rogers said. “We do have infrastructure problems and we have a large capital improvement list, but the functionality of the district I see to be really good. Now we need to move forward with the capital improvement program.”
Rogers said the top priority for his three-year contract is to get “pipes in the ground” and see the capital improvement projects started and completed. The rate increase that happened last year is something Rogers acknowledges as necessary for the district to have the funding to make the projects happen. But according to Rogers, this is why he wants to be sure ratepayers see where the money from the rate increase is being spent.
“That is the common thing I have been hearing from ratepayers: is they did not mind the rate increase as long as they see progress being made on projects,” Rogers said. “And that is my job to get those projects constructed.”
Beyond just the capital improvement projects, Rogers said the Lompico projects are also on his radar and he would like to see a lot of those projects completed during his tenure. Additionally, Rogers understands the importance of working with the Santa Margarita Groundwater Agency (SMGWA) and coming up with a plan for aquifer management.
“I think I have the trust of the community. It is important for me to be honest and straightforward with people,” Rogers said.
Rogers recognizes the importance of keeping the ratepayer informed about what the district is doing and working on. Last month, Rogers started hosting “Community Chats” throughout the San Lorenzo Valley/Scotts Valley to invite ratepayers in to ask questions with Rogers and finance manager Stephanie Hill.
“A lot of times at public meetings it is just so clinical and you can’t always address everything with the community,” Rogers said. “That is why I came up with the idea for community chats and I hope to continue those after the election.”
With the election of three board of director positions coming next month, Rogers said he is not worried about working with whoever sits on the next board.
“I know them all and I seem to have their support,” Rogers said. “I think once they get on we will be here to work on the same issues together.”
After the election and the new board is in place, Rogers wants to slow down and prioritize the capital improvement projects and focus on what is needed to run the district.
But for now, Rogers said while he is still getting used to his new title, he is excited about the role and his plans for the district.
“I am part of the community, I have been here for a long time,” Rogers said. “I have a track record and I plan to continue it.” Rogers, who will manage 31 district employees, started his three-year contract on Oct. 19 with an annual salary of $180,998. According to Rogers, the district is doing an internal recruitment to fill his former role of director of operations.