Pine Cove Water District residents will have a choice of three candidates for the two director seats up for election in the August mail-in ballot election. Diana Eskew, a board member, who is in her first election, and two challengers — Sharon Kaffen and Timothy Lange — are the candidates.

Ballots must be received by the election officials no later than the close of the polls on election day or be postmarked on or before election day, Aug. 25, and received no later than three days after election day to be counted.

Before August, the Town will interview each candidate. On Tuesday, Aug. 4, the Pine Cove Property Owners Association and the Town Crier will hold a candidates forum for PCWD voters. The forum will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Pine Cove Fire Station (Station 23).

This interview is with Eskew, a current PCWD director. Kaffen’s interview will appear in the July 23 issue and Lange’s interview was in the July 9 Town Crier issue.

Diana Eskew, Pine Cove Water District director. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Diana Eskew, Pine Cove Water District director.
Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Eskew has been a full-time Pine Cove resident for 20 years and visited the Hill and her sister, who had already settled here, for more than 15 years before making it her home. She is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and her two children still live there.

Independent-minded and a pathfinder describe her career journey from the East Coast to here. She was one of the first commercial vehicle drivers in Pennsylvania. She could handle buses to trucks. And she was good at it. For many years, she was a commercial driving instructor and one of the authors of the state’s commercial driving manual.

In Idyllwild, she was the office manager at Med Data, which eventually closed its office here. Afterward, she and two friends opened their own medical billing company. Now, she runs it herself.

TC: Why did you originally join the Board and why do you want to continue?
Eskew was appointed to the PCWD board in 2012, filling the term of former Board President Tom McCullough, who had died. This is her first campaign in California, although she was active in Pennsylvania politics before coming west.

“Too much drama” kept her on the sidelines here until she attended some PCWD meetings. So she decided to get involved with community business.

“There was no drama and everybody was close,” she said. “We agree on most everything and, if not, we talk about how we can come to agreement.”

Eskew also emphasized that she brings the perspectives of both a woman and a long-time business owner to the board meetings.

If re-elected, Eskew wants to see General Manager Jerry Holldber continue. “I like the direction Jerry takes with conservation. And we have employees so well trained that they save us money by doing projects, such as laying pipeline, that other districts will put out to contract.”

She also stressed that despite the four-year drought, PCWD has always had sufficient water for its customers and continues to have enough to accommodate adding customers without constraints on the existing clientele.

TC: With respect to revenues and water supply, what should customers expect going forward?
Eskew is not worried about either the district’s finances or its water supply. Regarding the water, she credits the customers heeding Holldber’s early alerts to conserve water use.

One significant contribution to the district’s long-term lowered water consumption, she believes, is the frequent offering of rebates for various water-saving devices, whether it is low-flush toilets or efficient washing machines or even rain barrels.

“I hope more people take advantage of the rain barrels,” she urged. “We’ve already sold more than 250 and are ordering more.”

TC: PCWD water production is significantly lower than in 2010, but has increased in the past year. Why do you think PCWD water consumption is starting to grow?
Eskew believes there may be one or more leaks that have gone undetected contributing to the higher-than-needed production. It may require hiring a company to find them. Also, some customers, despite the efforts of many, still will use as much water as they want, regardless of the warnings.

“Some don’t think it applies to them,” she admonished. “We need to continue to educate our customers.”

TC: If you were to cut the budget, what are the priorities?
“I’ve sat through the budget meetings and looked at the budget every month,” she began. “I wouldn’t recommend cutting anything. Our salaries are commensurate with other districts.

“What we pay is well worth it. This staff saves thousands of dollars with all the work they do, for example, constructing the pump sites, the buildings at Dutch Flats, and laying pipes.”

TC: Should PCWD be concerned about increasing its reserves?
“I don’t believe we need to raise rates for this now,” Eskew replied. “The auditor and accountant suggest it and I’m not against increasing reserves, but it’s not an immediate priority.”

TC: How do you assess the district’s infrastructure?
“It’s right up-to-date,” she quickly replied. “We’ve had no major breaks and regularly replace old pipe with new and are replacing out-of-date meters, too. Every week, LA announces another major leak or blow up.”

“[The Board] gets things accomplished peacefully and competently,” she said. “We provide the people of Pine Cove with really good water and really great service and it’s what I want to be part of.”