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June 16, 2021

SLV Water District picks new director

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Board of Directors on May 6 was busy interviewing, and ultimately welcoming, its newest director.

Jayme Ackemann, a Ben Lomond resident who has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley for 15 years, swept the vote and was appointed to her role on the board during the district’s regular online meeting. 

The combination of her marketing and communication skills, years of experience with San Jose Water, and involvement with her community made Ackemann an ideal candidate, the board determined. As the district recovers from losses in infrastructure, product and community alliances, Ackemann says she brings a fresh perspective and is ready to get to work.

Ackemann had initially thrown her hat in the ring for a director’s seat in November 2020 after Steve Swan abandoned his role as board president by moving out of state. Following Swan’s leave, Director Mark Smolley was appointed to the board. 

Ackemann steps in for former Director Tina Marie To, who offered her resignation just months after being elected in November 2020.

To’s sudden departure from the board left SLVWD scrambling to find a new appointee, and Ackemann said she knew it was the right time. The first thing she wants her neighbors to know is that she understands the magnitude of serving on the board, and that she takes her role seriously.

“I’ve been interested in water issues since I worked for San Jose Water several years ago as director of communications,” she said. “In particular, I’m concerned about the recovery of our watershed following the CZU fire in August. That was an emotional and difficult experience for all of us to live through, and it seemed like an opportune time to get involved with the district and give back to our community.” 

Ackemann’s experience as a member of Friends of San Lorenzo Valley Water also gave her a solid understanding of local water issues; couple that with her gratitude for the District’s response during the CZU Complex, and Ackemann said she knew she had to take her chance. 

“We were so grateful for what the water district did behind our home to recover from the fire. There was a pipeline that was heavily damaged, and our neighbors that are on wells were using their water to help fight the fire,” she said. “My experience with water recovery issues from my time with San Jose Water allowed me to help explain to our neighbors what was happening, and why. There was fear about water safety and contamination, and the potential of wells going down in the future should we have another event like the CZU fire. I just knew I could bring my experience in conservation and community outreach to our Valley.”

Tiny districts have tiny staff, and Ackemann wants the community to understand the time and effort it takes to keep Valley residents “in water.”

“Our infrastructure is complex, and we have an obligation to help do some more outreach and education,” she said. “My goal is to help the community better understand ways to get involved and use their voices to support the district.”

Ackemann says her background in communications makes her the perfect vessel to deliver the district’s messages of increased community engagement.

“I’ve lived here for 15 years, and I am happy to go sit at the Felton Farmers’ Market with a district name tag on, and answer questions about our agency,” she said. “We have the right people with the right skills to work on fire recovery issues, and the big question is, ‘Will we be able to get the grant funding we need to move forward to accomplish our goals?’” 

Ackemann said she wants to get more attention from state and federal legislators to help meet those needs, and is interested in increasing government relations to benefit the district’s recovery.

“If I can help bridge those contacts, and bring more visibility to the district and our financial needs, that would be a win for me as a director,” she said. “If people have more visibility into the issues affecting our neighborhoods, they’ll have more incentive to get involved. Water reliability, safety and access will be key issues that influence the quality of life residents of this Valley enjoy. I hope to earn reelection in 2022 by representing my neighbors well. My door is always open.”

Want to see Ackemann and her fellow SLVWD Directors in action? The District holds twice-monthly Board meetings via Zoom; information on upcoming meetings can be found on the District’s website at slvwd.com.

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