After terminating former Idyllwild Water District (IWD) General Manager Michael Creighton’s contract Sept. 25 at a special closed-session meeting, the IWD board approved the hiring of two employees — a field supervisor and general manager — at its Oct. 16 general meeting.
The board selected Lake Hemet Municipal Water District’s (LHMWD) Mitchell Freeman to be field supervisor and Darren Milner to be its general manager. Both hires were unanimously approved by all present board members. Board member Peter Szabadi was the only board member absent from the meeting.
Freeman was with LHMWD for more than 30 years. His role, before leaving LHMWD, was water/wastewater operations manager. Freeman will earn an annual salary of $97,488. He is scheduled to start Friday, Nov. 1, according to an email from Milner. There is a one-year probation period. Freeman will be evaluated in regular intervals selected by the board with the first evaluation conducted no later than the completion of six months of employment, according to Freeman’s employment agreement.
Milner has worked for district’s such as Rancho California Water District as field services manager, Rainbow Municipal Water District as operations manager and further experience in the field going back to 2004 in the public and private sectors. He holds a Master of Public Administration.
“I serve as a traditional reservist in the U.S Air Force Reserves at March Air Reserve Base as a civil engineer,” said Milner. He began working for the district Monday, Oct. 21. Milner will earn an annual salary of $102,212. Creighton received an annual salary of $104,833. Milner, who will also be on one-year probation, will follow the same evaluation schedule as Freeman.
When asked what the district’s employee background check process entailed, Board President Dr. Charles Schelly responded, “The search committee reviews applicants qualifications. If an applicant passes their cursory review they are interviewed by the search committee.
“Once recommended by the search committee they are interviewed by the full board. After the board interview, references from previous employers are checked. There are frequently things in an individual’s past that are unflattering and, unless explained, can even appear disqualifying. We found nothing in the information that we have gathered from past employment, social media or internet checks that disqualified the new employees.
“Ours was not an exhaustive process partly because as at-will employees, if we were to find something at a later date, they could be dismissed at that time. More importantly, if they perform well, contribute to improvement and succeed here, we welcome their continued employment. We anticipate that both employees will help improve our district both in the short and long term. The district, once hired, does the federal super check for crimes and warrants, etc.,” concluded Schelly.


  1. This district is prevented economically from hiring a general manager mid career at the height of their management skills because of one overriding fact, they are unable to pay into the Public Employment Retirement System where virtually all water managers contribute. As a result it’s short time uncompetitive pay, hence unsupported after unsupported employee who can’t hold their own on a long term basis. Pathetic!

  2. Again, invest in PERS as PCWD does, hire licensed technicians and welders and overall costs drop dramatically, allowing reinvestment in the entire system with superb water quality not just the center of town with outrageously overpriced/outsourced special interest projects and neglecting water quality. Wake up Idyllwild and put an end to this mismanagement.

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