Pueblo Board of Water Works board election crucial to Pueblo’s future — Alan Hamel

Loaf ‘N Jug Presents the Chile & Frijoles Festival (2015), Historic Downtown Pueblo, CO. Photo Credit: Extremeshots Photography

Here’s a guest column from Alan Hamel that’s running in the La Junta Tribune Democrat:

There are two six-year term board seats and one two-year term seat to be filled on the Pueblo Board of Water Works. One incumbent and three new candidates are running for the two six-year seats, and one short-term incumbent and a new candidate are running for the two-year seat.

This election could be historic, in that, in a short two-year time span, the board could have four new members. A major part of the organization’s success in serving Pueblo with high quality water in a sufficient supply and at a reasonable cost, supported by a highly qualified leadership team and dedicated and qualified employees, is having a tenured board of highly motivated business men and women committed to that mission.

Not only must they look at today, but 50 years out. That is why this election is so crucial to our future.

Let’s for a moment reflect on a just few of Pueblo Water’s major successes. First, water supply. Pueblo Water is currently the completing the acquisition of 28 percent of the Bessemer Irrigating Ditch Company. With this addition to Pueblo’s supply, the system can serve a population of 200,000 and through the year 2070.

Second, water treatment and quality. The system’s water treatment equipment and laboratories are state of the art, meeting or exceeding all state and federal which continually are becoming more demanding. Pueblo Water continually adopts the newest and best methods to deliver the highest quality water to its customers. The water treatment plant capacity is 84 million gallons per day. With Pueblo’s current maximum day usage in the low 50 million gallons per day, the plant is capable of serving Pueblo’s needs well into the future.

Third, water rates. Pueblo continues to have the lowest rates for potable water of any major utility along the Front Range. Pueblo water rates are 33 percent below the average and 67 percent below the top. This is being done while having an ample supply of water and a modern, dependable and well-maintained system.

Fourth, long range planning. Pueblo Water has been a leader in its implementation of long range planning, dating back to the 1970s. Over the years, it has enhanced those efforts greatly. Currently in place are plans that span the next 30 years, and in the case of water supply, 50 years.

This has been a direct result of having a strong and committed elected board, supported by an exceedingly qualified leadership team and backed by highly component and trained employees. The elected board, leadership and employees are all dedicated to serving the customers/citizens of Pueblo.

With all this in mind, I truly believe it is imperative we re-elect Mike Cafasso to another term to the Pueblo water board. He has served the citizens of Pueblo with distinction and strong leadership in this position for the last 12 years and will provide strong leadership in this historic period in Pueblo Water’s history and in our future.

He has served as the board president for a total three years during his tenure. His private sector experience is extensive. He is the current chief executive officer at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and during his career in banking, he has been president and CEO of two banks in Pueblo.

Along with his comprehensive experience as an administrator and in finance, he has taken extensive leadership, customer service and innovation practice training over the years. And now he applies that in his everyday life. Pueblo Water and their customers have benefited from his service and training.

I now want to make one more recommendation for the other six-year seat. I would recommend Chris Woodka, who has been involved for more than 34 years in water supply issues and would be able to transition quickly into a position as a Pueblo water board member. Currently, he is the senior policy and issues manager for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, a position he has held for three years.

For the previous 31 years, Woodka worked in various positions at The Pueblo Chieftain. He wrote and researched water issues during his entire career. From 2004 to 2016, his primary emphasis was on water reporting. During that period I got to know him well. In my opinion, he was the most knowledgeable water reporter in Colorado, covering the complex world of water. He thoroughly understands all aspects of Pueblo Water.

In closing, Pueblo would be well served by electing Mike Cafasso and Chris Woodka to the Board of Water Works.

Alan Hamel retired from the Pueblo Board of Water Works after 52 years, including 30 years as executive director. He now serves as a board member for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and a volunteer in the Pueblo mayor’s office.

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