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Baxter to chair 2022 FPUD meetings

 

Last updated 12/31/2021 at 11:32am



Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Dave Baxter will be chairing Fallbrook Public Utility District board meetings during calendar year 2022.

The Dec. 13 FPUD board meeting included a 5-0 vote selecting Baxter as the board president and Charley Wolk as the board vice-president.

“I’m just excited as heck to have the opportunity to continue serving the community,” Baxter said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to represent Fallbrook.”

Baxter had been the FPUD vice-president for 2021 and also chaired the board’s Engineering and Operations Committee. The Dec. 13 meeting also included 2022 committee assignments, and Baxter has transitioned from the Engineering and Operations Committee to the Fiscal Policy and Insurance Committee and the Personnel Committee.

“They’re all landing on my plate,” Baxter said.

During 2022, FPUD expects to complete the process of detaching from the San Diego County Water Authority and annexing into the Eastern Municipal Water District as an EMWD retail agency. Labor decisions will be made during 2022.

FPUD will also hold a Proposition 218 rate hearing during 2022. In November 1996, the state's voters passed Proposition 218, which requires a public vote on benefit assessments. Proposition 218 exempts water and sewer rate increases if a cost of service study shows a relationship between the rates and the agency's cost to provide water or sewer service.

A rate setting policy can be in effect for up to five years and must include a rate design and public review. In December 2017, the FPUD board held a Proposition 218 hearing which approved annual rate increases of up to 8% through calendar year 2022.

“I specifically want to help educate the community,” Baxter said. “It’s important people come to board meetings or they call or e-mail.”

If FPUD and Rainbow detach from the SDCWA and join Eastern, which will require both approval from San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission and support during a public vote, the cost FPUD pays for imported water will be reduced. “I’m passionate about detachment,” Baxter said.

Lower wholesale water costs will allow more money to be spent on infrastructure. “The infrastructure’s critical. It’s old. It costs something to maintain that infrastructure,” Baxter said.

Al Gebhart had been the FPUD board member for Subdistrict No. 1. Gebhart and his wife, Donna, moved out of the area in 2019, and in August 2019 Baxter was appointed to replace Gebhart on the FPUD board. Donna Gebhart’s seat on the Fallbrook Community Planning Group was filled by Baxter’s wife, Stephani. Both Baxter spouses were appointed to terms expiring at the end of 2020. Dave Baxter was unopposed when he sought re-election for a full four-year term and his wife was re-elected to the planning group in November 2020.

Baxter is originally from rural Tennessee. He served in the Coast Guard for eight years, and after his discharge in 1996 he joined the Nalco Chemical Company which is involved in water treatment and water management consulting. “They transferred me to California to help run their California office,” Baxter said.

The California office was in El Segundo, although Baxter opted to commute from a Costa Mesa home. His wife is originally from El Toro, which is now Laguna Hills, and they met in Orange County. They moved from Mission Viejo to Fallbrook in November 2013.

“Our son was getting ready to graduate high school,” Baxter said. “We just wanted to get into a more rural environment.”

Baxter and his wife were looking at homes in the Wine Country area across the county line from Fallbrook. “A home came up in Fallbrook that was absolutely everything and more that we could have possibly thought up,” he said.

The property includes approximately 3 1/2 acres of proteas Baxter and his wife cultivate commercially. The Baxters’ water bill utilizes the Special Agricultural Water Rate.

“It’s a fight every day, because it’s not a break-even proposition these days with the cost of water,” Baxter said.

When the Baxters moved to Fallbrook he was working for Schneider Electric. “I was looking to transfer to Italy,” Baxter said.

His job in sales for Schneider Electric allowed him to live in Fallbrook. “It didn’t matter where I lived. I was on an airplane every other week,” he said. “That was a grueling job.”

Baxter retired from Schneider Electric in May 2018, although he is now in charge of Relevant Industrial. That company’s products include electric distribution components, control systems, and integration equipment.

“I’ve been doing water projects, a lot of small projects, but I’m doing some major projects,” Baxter said.

When Gebhart retired he asked if Baxter was interested. “It was a natural fit,” Baxter said.

“I had always been following FPUD,” Baxter said. “I was aware of it.”

Baxter’s wife agreed to replace Gebhart’s wife on the planning group. “We both went through the election process for the very first time together,” Baxter said.

As the only candidate who filed for the FPUD Subdistrict No. 1 seat Baxter was not subject to an election. Eleven candidates filed for the eight Fallbrook Community Planning Group seats subject to election in November 2020. The eight candidates with the highest vote totals were elected. Stephani Baxter had the third-highest number of votes.

“We love this community. We can’t believe that we have the opportunity to live in this fantastic place,” Baxter said.

“We take Fallbrook living very seriously,” Baxter said. “We could not imagine living any other place.”

 

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