At its Dec. 21, 2016, meeting, the Idyllwild Water District Board of Directors appointed John “Jack” Hoagland of Temecula, as its interim general manager. He replaced former General Manager Tom Lynch, who unexpectedly resigned in early September. The Town Crier interviewed Hoagland last week.
Since he graduated from college and graduate school, Hoagland’s career has been more than 30 years immersed in the water-delivery profession.
A native Californian, Hoagland graduated from San Diego State University with a chemistry major. He earned his master’s in civil engineering from UCLA.
His first water job was as a chemist or water engineer for the city of Santa Monica. During the next 10 years, he eventually managed all the city agencies that made money — water, sewer and cemeteries.
From there, he and his wife moved to Temecula, and Hoagland first worked at the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and then the city of Escondido. EVMWD was a high-growth district when Hoagland managed its water system in the late 1980s. At Escondido, he oversaw a major recycled program and maintained 25 miles of pipeline to distribute drinking water.
All of these positions were at districts much larger than Idyllwild. By the time he left Elsinore, its customer based had tripled to more than 34,000.
During the later half of the 1990s, Hoagland took the risk of establishing his own water consulting firm. His client base included several small districts, and generally focused on helping districts with growth and development issues.
Recognizing the approaching economic downturn, he accepted the opportunity to manage the Lake Arrowhead Community Service District for more than four years until 2012.
But Hoagland’s water district experience extends beyond testing chemicals, maintaining pipelines and managing staff. In 2001, he was elected to the board of the Rancho California Water District, which includes Temecula, parts of Murrieta and other contiguous lands. As demonstration of his success on the political side of water management, he has been re-elected three times and his current term expires in December.
Idyllwild is the latest stop on his water adventure. After seeing an ad in one of the water journals seeking applicants for the general manager position, Hoagland did some research — read articles in the Town Crier.
In particular, he read about the IWD candidates forum in November. “I like what the candidates had to say,” he said. “It sounded positive and they had some interesting issues; but definitely a lot of drama.”
In fact, one his surprises since being selected is the amount of drama.
Since beginning in late December, Hoagland has been learning about the district — its problems, its staff and the community. Besides staff, he has had several talks with former IWD General Manager Tom Lovejoy and water manager Herb Bergstrom.
With the staff turnover, Hoagland has had to rely on files for background on many issues. “While Hosny [Shouman, chief finance officer] and Jeannine [Olsen, billing] have been here several years, there is a real absence of institutional memory.” He also noted the relative newness of the directors; only Steve Kunkle has been on the board more than a year.
One of his goals is to build and attract staff that will stay and live in Idyllwild. “Holding on to them is the hard part,” he said. “We have good staff who are keeping up with the state.” But Hoagland worries about the staff and their endurance. With the small staff size, it is stressful for an employee to work 20 days straight.
He also is spending time meeting customers and discussing their concerns. Another important priority will be to stabilize the district. If he succeeds, then he can go further by building on the stability of operating water and sewer programs.
He also noted that no water projects are inexpensive today. And the IWD system is 50 years old.
“Maintenance doesn’t get less as it gets older,” he added. “This is a common problem for small districts — financial resources. IWD is not wealthy, but is does have solid finances.”
Ultimately, Hoagland wants to “get back to where the community feels comfortable that things are going well at IWD and in their best interest.”