Editor’s note: At its June 20 meeting, the Idyllwild Water District Board of Directors selected Les Gin as the fifth director. He replaces Catherine Dearing, who resigned in May. Since Gin did not campaign for the position, the Town Crier interviewed him so the community would have some knowledge of the new water director.

He will have to stand for election in 2020 for the final two years of the term.

Gin has been an Idyllwild resident for less than two years, unlike David Hunt, the most recently appointed director, who has been a lifetime Idyllwild resident.

Les Gin, Idyllwild Water District’s newest director. Photo by JP Crumrine

Gin from Arizona is extremely happy with his choice of Idyllwild for retirement. “When we visited Idyllwild in the summer of 2016, we fell in love with it,” he said.

His interest in volunteering has not waned since settling here. Already, with assistance of his partner, Holly Parsons, he has contributed to several Art Alliance of Idyllwild events, including offering his backyard as a staging corral for the AAI’s new deer herd.

“I want to connect with the community,” Gin said.

While Gin does not have extensive experience with water production or treatment, he does have years of service on public nonprofit organizations and financial acumen, both of which he believes will benefit IWD.

His lack of “hands-on” water experience will not prevent him from learning about water issues and forming an opinion. But it will be the process of forming that decision and involving the public that will be his contributions to the board, he said.

“I believe in an inclusive environment,” Gin said.  “We all have a stake in its ownership and success. Of course, opinions matter, but through education we learn the facts, not hearsay.

“I try to be an active listener, not trying to form a judgment early,” he added. “I want to defuse emotional responses and not make promises before understanding.”

Besides cultivating an interaction with the customers and fellow board members’ views, Gin recognized that a divided board seldom helps its community.

“After we make a decision, we need a united front,” he said. “We can’t undermine each other.”

Only 66 years of age, Gin has devoted nearly two-thirds of his life to the banking and financial profession. His background makes him comfortable with numbers, including budgets. It motivates his seeking facts for problem solving and decisions.

While he abstained from the vote on raising the IWD water and sewer rates, his first opportunity to cast a director’s vote, he did support the proposed 2018-19 budget.

“I have to have numbers, and voting for the budget just made sense to me,” he said.

And Gin hopes the power of numbers will help the board educate and enlighten the community. “We need to be able to explain why we’re doing what we’re doing. Decisions can’t be drafted in the dark with no transparency.

“We should be transparent. We’re serving the community,” he said, offering to employ the bidding process more to keep the community informed of who and why they are doing their work.

“Sometimes the best long-term decision does not come with the cheapest short-term cost. The cheapest bid may cost more in the long run,” he noted from his own experience using contracts.

But Gin is not unaware of local water issues and the district’s responsibilities to its customers. He has lived through a very wet winter in 2016-17 and now an extremely dry season in 2017-18.

“These two years have been just the opposite and it is very concerning. We may have to do something this summer,” he said.

He even opined about consolidation. Referring to his predilection for numbers, “How do you support three water boards, three executive positions, three administrative staffs? We had nine separate banks in Phoenix, which were merged into one and I was one of the presidents without a job.”

He advocated finding the best practices at each district and sharing those mechanisms so that everybody on the Hill benefits.

“It’s a community. It’s all our water and it needs to be safe and plentiful,” Gin urged. “At the end of the day, all each of us does is turn on the tap and want safe water.”