Steve Erler, Fern Valley Water District general manager, retires at the end of June Photo by J P Crumrine
Steve Erler, Fern Valley Water District general manager, retires at the end of June
Photo by J P Crumrine

After more than 20 years with Fern Valley Water District, of which he was general manager for 18 years, Steve Erler is floating off into the sunset. Erler finishes his FVWD career on Thursday, June 30 and begins retirement Friday, July 1.

Not a rambling or garrulous speaker, Erler simply described his career in these words, “I enjoyed it.”

But during the time here, his planning and dedication were noticeable and enjoyed by his various boards.

Current FVWD board President Jim Rees, who has known Erler since their youth in Hemet, said, “Ever since I’ve been on there, I’m impressed with his job. Steve always does his best to save the district money and not overspend.”

During his career, Erler said his proudest achievement was the purchase of 15 acres on Lodge Road. “Negotiating that piece of land was a big coup for the district,” Erler said with a smile.

But it was not the land itself from which FVWD benefited, it was how Erler used it and what he did with it that created and will continue to generate benefits for FVWD customers.

With respect to water resources, the site is the source of three new wells that have doubled FVWD’s groundwater capacity. A new maintenance facility was built there, which permitted FVWD to install surface water and granular-activated carbon treatment plants at the former maintenance site.

No manager experiences a continuing ascending ladder of successes, and Erler admitted he has encountered a few struggles during his two decades. The biggest has been his efforts to reduce water losses. And consistent with his thorough and persistent methods, he has nearly cut the water losses in half — from 20 percent to 10.

As the senior public servant for a public agency, much of a general manager’s time is invested in work with the board. Erler is no different and expressed his gratitude for the support and ability of numerous individuals who have served as directors during his tenure.

“I couldn’t ask for better directors,” he said. During the period when he served with two engineers on the board, Erler accepted their insightful questions and his care for details was an advantage.

“Steve is a very hard-working and dedicated employee, who is careful about whatever he does,” said Robert Krieger, a current director and chair of Krieger and Steward, an engineering consulting firm in Riverside. “He is detailed about whatever he does and, as a consequence, he always does the right thing. He was a pleasure to work with.”

One of his continuing challenges, as any water manager knows, is keeping current with changing Environmental Protection Agency rules and regulations. This has affected Fern Valley’s water storage. More precisely, Erler has to ensure that the stored water rotates more quickly than past managers did. Storage capacity is not limited, but length of storage has become an important variable.

While dealing with directors, staff and the public, Erler also has found time to plan and execute the replacement of nearly 8 miles of pipeline in the district, thus ensuring reliable and safe water to his customers.

Also, Erler works with the other local water districts. General Manager Jerry Holldber of Pine Cove Water has known him since Erler began at FVWD. “Steve replaced Tom Horn and has done a good job. There’s been lots of improvements.

“The two districts have a good working relationship and I hope it will continue,” Holldber added.

Once retirement occurs and he adjusts, Erler and wife Anne plan to stay in Idyllwild while visiting their place on Lake Havasu. He also plans to purchase a recreational vehicle so they can travel more, and Erler enjoys restoring old trucks such as Land Cruisers.

He has been preparing for this stage of life and has no regrets. “I’m doing it while I can enjoy life,” he said proudly. “I’ll miss everybody. I was passionate about the district’ success. Time flew by.”

But he recognizes the value of changes, which can bring fresh ideas; so he has welcomed and prepared Victor Jimenez to become the next FVWD general manager on July 1.