After a six-month vacancy, Groveland Community Services District has a new general manager.

Jim Goodrich, 52, came to the foothills from Vancouver, Wash., because "I saw a lot of challenges," he said. "Things I knew how to do."

The board's previous general manager, Jeff Winner, left the district in October to take another job in Oregon.

The district's two biggest obstacles, Goodrich said, are its $1 million state debt and the pending sewer-rate hike.

An accounting error caused the district to underpay California's Education Revenue Augmentation Fund in the 1990s by almost $1 million over nine years.

The ERAF fund shifted money to schools from other government entities, and counties were given a formula to use in calculating their required contribution.

When an auditor caught the calculation error in 2000, state officials said they wanted their missing money.

The board is also looking at raising sewer rates for the first time since 1980.

Goodrich, a 30-year veteran of the water business, was the board's top pick out of about 50 applicants, President Allie Baker-Henderson said. The district will pay him about $104,000 annually for his work.

Although Good-rich stood out in interviews with his immense knowledge of water issues and strong motivation to lead the district, Director Craig Maxwell said he knew they picked the right person last week, when he ran into Goodrich at the district office.

"He was there with his wife, Cindi, and his dog, Cutter, and his kayak on the top of his car," Maxwell said. "And I thought, perfect!"

Goodrich comes to Groveland after sailing the Pacific for more than two years with his wife. About five years ago, for their 25th wedding anniversary, Goodrich said, he wanted to "give her the world." So the duo spent 15 months sailing off the Mexican coast, four months in Hawaiian waters and six months near Canada.

"Then we woke up in Canada one morning with 4 inches of snow, 28-degree weather, and decided it was time to move off the boat," Goodrich said.