Tuolumne Utilities District is trying to figure out how to move forward with filling a vacant seat on its board of directors after neither of the two applicants for the position were able to get a majority of votes from the remaining four board members at a public meeting Tuesday.
The two who applied prior to the Feb. 14 filing deadline were Glen Jacobs, a semi-retired engineer, and Troy Carle, a former teacher and business owner. They were each vying for the seat left vacant by the resignation of former Director Lisa Murphy in January.
Neither candidate was ultimately appointed in the end due to TUD Board President Jeff Kerns and Director David Boatright voting in favor of Jacobs, while Board Vice President Ron Ringen and Director Barbara Balen put their support behind Carle.
“So, where do we go from here?” Kerns asked after the stalemate became apparent.
Melissa McMullen, the TUD board secretary, told Kerns that she would have to contact the county about the next steps because she wasn’t “100% sure” whether the seat will have to go to a special election.
McMullen said the district’s attorney, Jesse Barton, was unable to attend the meeting Tuesday due to a scheduling conflict.
Emily Long, TUD spokeswoman, said on Wednesday that the water and sewer agency is working with the Tuolumne County Elections Office “on the next steps” in the process of filling the seat, but could not provide an estimated timeline for when that will be determined.
Debi Bautisa, the county clerk, auditor-controller and registrar of voters, also did not elaborate on the discussions taking place in an email response Thursday to an inquiry from The Union Democrat, other than that her office is “working with TUD on the next steps.”
One possible option could be to hold a special election, though the district would have to pay for it.
The board voted 4-0 on Jan. 24 to fill the vacancy left by Murphy through the appointment process as opposed to holding a special election, as has been the typical practice when seats have become vacant in the past.
TUD General Manager Don Perkins said at the Jan. 24 meeting that going through with a special election “costs a lot of money,” but did not provide an exact dollar figure.
Balen said at the Jan. 24 meeting that it would be more efficient for the TUD board to appoint someone because it used to cost the district as much as $48,000 for a special election when it was out of sync with the county’s normal election schedule.
Another option is for the county Board of Supervisors to appoint someone to the seat, though Barton noted at the Jan. 24 meeting that he didn’t “envision that happening” as long as the TUD board was “active in seeking a replacement.”
Murphy was elected to a four-year term in November 2020 after finishing with the third-most votes in a five-person race for three seats that were up for grabs at the time. She announced her immediate resignation from the TUD board on Jan. 10 because she moved out of county.
The only requirements to be on the TUD board are to be a registered voter who resides in the county and, as of last year, the specific voting district that they will represent.
Barton told the TUD board at its Jan. 24 meeting that the person selected to serve out the remainder of Murphy’s term would have to come from either districts 2 or 5 because of the switch to a geographical voting system last year and neither of those districts currently having a representative on the board.
Carle and Jacobs both stated in their applications that they are residents of TUD’s District 5, which includes Twain Harte and a vast portion of the east county up the Highway 108 corridor. District 2 includes Jamestown and a portion of the southwestern part of the county.
Jacobs’ resume stated that he moved to Tuolumne County in 1979 and previously was a partner in a local contracting firm and sole proprietor of an engineering firm, while still providing part-time engineering services for a firm in Manteca.
Carle stated that he holds a bachelor’s degree in English and taught the subject at a high school outside of Seattle before he and his wife moved back to his hometown in Tuolumne County 10 years ago. He owned and operated Union Hill Coffee in Sonora for six years before selling it to focus on being the primary caregiver to their 3-year-old son.
Kerns and Boatright both cited Jacobs’ background and qualifications in explaining why supported him for the position, while Ringen and Balen said they believed that Carle was also qualified and talked about his involvement in the community as being helpful for public outreach.