Editor’s note: At its Oct. 17 meeting, the Fern Valley Water District Board of Directors chose Richard Schnetzer as director following the resignation of Ron Korman in June. On Nov. 26, Schnetzer visited the Town Crier office. The ensuing discussion is the basis of this story that introduces him to the whole community.

Richard Schnetzer, new Fern Valley Water District director. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Richard Schnetzer, new Fern Valley Water District director.
Photo by J.P. Crumrine

While Schnetzer is not a lifetime Fern Valley customer, he is proud of his new role and responsibility. “I’ve toured the district with General Manager Steve Erler,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive; small but mighty.”

Schnetzer was born and grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Antioch College in Ohio. Work-study assignments through the school led him to California.

Setting the stage for his eventual career in education were two personal events. While experimenting with homemade fireworks, Schnetzer had an accident that cost him his left eye. Ironically, and firstly, his mother was legally blind.

This personal experience led him toward education and particularly with children who had disabilities. Eventually he joined the faculty at the Mardan Center of Educational Therapy, a private nonprofit school in Orange County. The center offers elementary and secondary programs for both regular and special education students.

His work also involved him with other schools and that inspired his desire to open his own consulting business. He founded the Institute for Effective Education and has been its president since 1988.

As part of this work, he became involved in lobbying Sacramento for resources and legislation to improve these programs. Today, while retired from daily work, he continues to transact some monthly business in the state capitol for the California Association of Private Special Education Schools.

“I advised school management on compliance with state and local laws. Now I’m part-time and still a registered lobbyist,” Schnetzer said.

Despite a busy and hefty career, he is not a recent Idyllwild resident. He first visited the Hill in 1968 during a staff retreat and has been returning regularly. Nearly 10 years ago, he and his wife Pat bought property here and began the part-time resident life. In 2012, after retiring, they chose to become full-time residents.

Pat has been very active with the Mountain Disaster Preparedness group. Since the early fall of 2013, MDP has focused attention on gaining a bond with the Riverside Red Cross Chapter. Pat Schnetzer, a former registered nurse, headed the effort to find and train Red Cross volunteers. Her success in recruiting more than 40 local volunteers resulted in recognition from the regional Red Cross.

Since his wife is very involved in community groups, upon Schnetzer seeing the availability of a vacancy on the FVWD board, he and Pat discussed this opportunity for him to get involved with Hill activities. In September, he submitted his letter of interest to the water district.

He was one of three people expressing their interest in filling the vacancy. At the October meeting, the board unanimously chose Schnetzer. “I was pleasantly surprised,” he acknowledged.

Although he is not a water professional, Schnetzer has been an active follower of water issues nationally and in the state. Also, throughout his career, he has been involved with public and private boards and understands how they function and the information they need to make good decisions.

“The issues are not different for any other district,” he said. “What is the same is there enough water and its quality.”

Schnetzer recognizes FVWD’s dependence on stream flow and is concerned about the continuing drought. He also recognizes the importance of FVWD’s wells as complements and back-up to the stream water.

“We’re fortunate to have wells with good flows,” he stated. “But how long do we go under this current condition?”

As director, he wants to be a good steward of the district’s resources and policies, cognizant of his fiduciary responsibility to the district’s constituency, and to help the staff plan for the future. His experience in the nonprofit world makes him acutely aware of the use of grants to sustain organizations. Consequently, he wants to seek out funding sources to enhance FVWD’s operations.

“I don’t think the public understands how much information is collected on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to provide what we take for granted — that the water out of the tap is good to drink,” Schnetzer said.