Get to know your IID Division 5 Candidates; Carlos Zaragosa, Luis Castro, Ruben Cazares, Norma Galindo, and Jim Horne.
As one of the candidates running for the Imperial Irrigation District Division 5 seat, Carlos Zaragoza said he is looking to bring a new perspective to the board.
Zaragoza was born in the Imperial Valley and at age 12 he began working on farms, and then worked in packing sheds as a bag boy and then loading. He is an honors graduate of California State Polytechnic Institute, Pomona, majoring in business management.
Because of this, Zaragoza was able to work in agricultural business management, doing budgeting, costing, and financial statements, and prepared books for audit. He also worked for more than 25 years for the California State Board of Equalization auditing assessor’s offices and valuing and auditing public entities for property tax purposes.
A veteran, he is a member of various chambers of commerce, the American Legion, Kiwanis, Old Fruit Tramps, the NAACP, and former officer of the Foster Parents Association. Zaragoza noted he is no stranger to campaigning for public office as he was a candidate for the Imperial County Assessor’s Office in 2014.
Zaragoza said is seeking a seat on the IID board because he has relevant education and substantial experience with utility companies. He said the skills he brings to the table are the ability to analyze financial statements, business and personnel management skills, ability to resolve issues and to make tough decisions.
Regarding the Salton Sea, Zaragoza said he has attended Salton Sea Restoration meetings and listened to the comments.
“The sea is drying out because no additional water is going in. Common sense tells us that and common sense is sorely lacking in decision making,” Zaragoza said. “Some people believe that the Salton Sea drying up is not their problem; but the resulting air pollution will affect us all and the mitigation efforts have been and are woefully inadequate. I would prioritize mitigation, restoration, and utilization of the natural resources of the Salton Sea,”
Zaragoza said he cares about the unemployment rate in the county and said people need to have a secure, good-paying job to support and educate their children.
“Men and women need, and ratepayers require, a workplace where the best are employed, and the place is free of sexual harassment, and not a competitor for match.com. To some, the IID directorship is a ‘part-time’ venture. I will dedicate full time to the position. It is time for others to get out of the way. There is work to be done.”
Luis Castro is one of the candidates running for the Imperial Irrigation District Division 5 seat and said he is looking to represent ratepayers.
Castro has deep roots in Calexico as his family moved to the city 47 years ago. Castro attended De Anza Junior High and Calexico High School where he met his wife, Ana. They are parents of three children and have seven grandchildren. Castro worked in the fields and at 19 began working for his father’s bus system. Castro served on the Calexico City Council from 2008-17 and was mayor twice.
“As the people’s IID director, I will listen and bring community engagement, advocacy, and committed leadership. We need an IID board member that advocates for the needs of the people and employees,” he said. “I want to be the bridge between the community and IID in hopes that the IID may better its public policy mandate of being a utility in the interest of the public.”
Castro said as a business person and a longtime community advocate, he is a strong believer in fair wages, local hiring and training. Castro believes when workers are properly compensated and have a stake management becomes more efficient. Castro said he will embrace feedback, teamwork, leadership, collaboration and communication as essential tools.
Castro said if elected in his first year he will focus on the New River, Salton Sea, promoting geothermal and solar projects that generate jobs and promoting IID energy policies.
“IID must plan to keep issues out front and encourage the board to work as a team and stay focused,” Castro said.
Regarding the Salton Sea, Castro said the IID and the State Water Control Board need to keep their partnership working and also work with the state Department of Natural Resources to advocate for measures that will most control the spread of toxic dust from the sea. Castro added the IID should be prepared to make well-thought investments needed to ensure the project meets established goals and such efforts should be seen as investments to improve public health.
When it comes to the New River, Castro said the coordination effort should continue in order to improve Calexico’s economic development and property values. Castro added IID should continue to coordinate with the federal government and California representatives to further efforts and find solutions on the Mexican side of the border.
“I propose a countywide partnership working with the IID, county, cities, and the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation to develop strong economic development policies, developing industries identified by the Imperial County Economic Development Strategy as opportunities for growth, and investing in retaining the local workforce for those industries,” Castro said.
Castro said he will be a full-time director, which will allow him to prepare and work with the board and be accessible to his constituents.
“I’m a team leader. As an IID director I will be a team player and a team leader,” Castro said.
Imperial Irrigation District Division 5 candidate Ruben Cazares is familiar to the organization as both an employee and a previous candidate for director. This year, he is one of the four candidates challenging the incumbent.
Cazares was employed at the IID for 25 years and his jobs have included supervising the electrical grid, customer service, solar power inspector, and geothermal plant operation. He noted he has supported Latino rights and helped organize IID employees into the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Cazares said he is running since Imperial Valley has been good to him and would like to give back to its residents. He said his experience at IID gives him knowledge about how departments work.
“I am giving a choice to the public. They can elect a politician, or they can elect an activist such as myself. I would not view the position of the IID director as a retirement check, but would be involved with the community and employees,” Cazares said.
Part of his platform is to be available to the public and not hide or ignore the public as some IID directors do, Cazares said. He added he will work to prevent IID officials from abusing or taking advantage of the public.
“I’m a true believer in laws, especially constitutional and civil rights, regardless of how other IID directors may feel. Our lawyers should be used to protect the public, not to be used to attack employees or the public. I would have never have allowed our lawyers to investigate a Solar Company where IID paid $40,000 to investigate the company just because they spoke against IID,” Cazares said.
Regarding the Salton Sea, Cazares said it requires a great amount of money to save and nobody wants to pay for it and the agricultural community is refusing to financially cooperate.
“It’s an issue that is in a quagmire and no one has the financial influence to take action,” Cazares said.
When it comes to the New River, Cazares said it all comes down to financing and questioned who will be putting the money for the cleanup.
“Until the money is in the bank, the New River will continue to be polluted. Anyone who says they can clean the New River is lying,” he said.
When asked about his plan for the IID to support economic development, Cazares said he would like to see more local companies pursue business relations with the IID. He added he will support economic incentives needed to attract outside businesses to the area as long as a good percentage of the employees are local.
Asked what separates him from his opponents, Cazares said he will not use the position of IID director to hire relatives, show support to special interest groups, harass individuals who do not agree with him, or just look for a retirement check.
“I’m not looking for attention but am aware my responsibility is to the public. I would only be one director; you need three votes to pass a resolution. My knowledge and involvement with the community will guide me in becoming a good representative,” he said.
Imperial Irrigation District Division 5 Director Norma Galindo said she is seeking another term to continue projects and tackle the issues IID faces.
She was first elected in 2012 to serve a partial term and elected to a full term in 2014.
“I’m running for re-election because there is some critical work in front of us and it is essential that someone who is knowledgeable, bold, and experienced make the decisions that will have an impact on the future of our valley. I have served on the Imperial Irrigation District’s board for six years… and I have delivered,” Galindo stated.
Among her accomplishments as a director Galindo listed reducing the cost of water sold to municipalities from$83to $23 an acre foot, resulting in an annual savings for all cities, including about$250,000 for Calexico; petitioning the State Water Resources Board to pressure California to accept its contractual responsibility to the restore the Salton Sea; signed an agreement with Citizens Energy to provide solar energy subsidies to all of the low-income ratepayers of Imperial County; ended a policy that impeded members of any IID advisory committees from serving while running for IID director.
Concerning community service, Galindo said she was able to fundyouth programs such as Calexico Little League, Brawley and Holtville Boys and Girls Clubs, and Ricochet Entertainment in Imperial; gave Calexico High School’s culinary arts program a $678,000 grant to upgrade its kitchen and created a partnership with a local group that feeds the homeless in expectation the new facility will train workers in food services. A pending measure would lower the eligibility age for the senior energy discount to 62 years so more low-income ratepayers qualify.
When it comes to the Salton Sea, Galindo said with the state acknowledging its responsibility and bond funding proposed, the IID must “hold its feet to the fire” and ensure the project begins and is seen to completion. About the New River, Galindo said the proposed bond measure includes $10 million to get cleanup started.
“Too long has this issue floated in the air….it is time to bring it down to earth and start addressing it. I believe that with the passage of the bond, the work will begin,” Galindo said.
Galindo said she will support economic development focused on environment, water, and alternative energy, working with her co-directors to encourage the development of geothermal resources at the Salton Sea and the extraction of minerals which, to be carried out, needs to employ highly technical and good-paying jobs.
When asked what separates her from other candidates, she cited her experience, stating, “None of the candidates has demonstrated any knowledge or experience in issues of energy and water, other than the usual rhetorical statements of ‘saving our water’ and ‘keeping our rates low.’”
Galindo holds a state teaching credential in career and technical education and is a teacher at Calexico High.
As a Holtville native and someone involved in local organizations throughout his life, Jim Horne said he is seeking the Imperial Irrigation District Division 5 seat to bring intellectual participation to protect the interests of the Imperial Valley.
“We are part of the world; we have assets; water, farming, recreation, labor, etc., though much less influential than large voting blocked communities, yet the right to protect interests of the residents of the Colorado flood plain in which we live are inherent in the Imperial Valley, area of public control by the people whom live within the district. Additionally, the right for the public to be informed of serious aspects concerning vested interests,” Horne said.
Horne noted he brings historical understanding of the issues surrounding water rights and how to deal with the issues that can re-establish protection of a natural resource, affordable power and water.
“I will accomplish in this endeavor with my political and historical expertise and, as a native of our community, understand the issue,” Horne said.
Horne said he wants to see an increasein green energy produced in Imperial County so there can be more jobs. He said he will also focuson preventing private utilities from the Los Angeles and San Diego areas from impeding the Imperial Valley’spublic water usage.
Regarding the Salton Sea, Horne said the only option is to bring water from the ocean with control of the federal government. The ocean water will help restore the sea and the New River and said if that happens people will fish, swim and boat,creating a multi-billion-dollar recreation industry.
When it comes to the New River, Horne said the agreement between IID, Imperial County and Calexico is only a temporary solution and more action is needed.
In economic development, Horne said he will support working people, farmers, labor and using the resources within the community to attract honorable businesses, which will develop and establish the resource production of value products to increase the labor force within the community. Horne added the solar- panel industry should be supported and the solar panels should be manufactured locally.
Horne described himself as a goal-oriented person who may at times use negotiation to benefit the community, an attribution that is the basis leadership.
“I take care of all people who live in this community, not just a few, not just the rich or not just the poor--the working people and the people that have obligations to their families,” he said. “I will do all I can to protect family interest, elderly, disabled, farmers, labors unions, everyone alike, if the people decide to vote for me, and elect me as their representative for IID director.”