Varela, Santos elected chair and vice chair of water district board

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors unanimously elected John L. Varela, District 1 representative, to serve as board chair in 2017. Richard P. Santos, representing District 3, was elected vice chair.

Chair Varela was appointed to the water district board in December 2015, filling the vacant District 1 seat following the resignation of Dennis Kennedy. Mr. Varela was subsequently elected in November 2016 to serve the remainder of Kennedy’s original term, which expires in December 2018. Mr. Varela has lived in Morgan Hill for 38 years. He has served as mayor and council member of Morgan Hill. He has been an entrepreneur in the solar/clean energy, bio-fuel and toy industries. He volunteers with several community organizations and is co-founder of South Valley Angels, an organization helping people start small companies. Mr. Varela sits on the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and participates with the Silicon Valley Chamber Coalition Regional Economic Development Initiative. He participated and chaired “Vision Morgan Hill,” a series of community meetings offering residents an opportunity to participate in how tax dollars are used. He represents South County as an advisor and board member to Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

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Vice Chair Santos was first elected in 2000 to represent District 3, which encompasses the City of Milpitas, the northern portions of the cities of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, and the Northern San Jose communities of Alviso, Berryessa, and Alum Rock. Mr. Santos is a native of Alviso, California and served in Korea with the 1st Calvary Armored Division until receiving an honorable U.S. Army Discharge in 1965. In 1968, Vice Chair Santos was hired as a San Jose Firefighter, promoted to Fire Engineer, Fire and Arson Inspector, and retired with 33 years of service as a Fire Captain in 2001. During his tenure at the San Jose Fire Department, Mr. Santos served as the elected Fire Representative on the San Jose Police/Fire Pension system for 12 years, and was a labor representative of the San Jose Firefighters Local 230 union. Mr. Santos continues his 32-year tenure as Chair of the Santa Visits Alviso Foundation and has received numerous awards for his 50-plus years of service to his community.

Immediately following the handing over of the gavel, board members praised outgoing chairperson, Barbara Keegan for her calmness and integrity in steering the board and the district through a challenging year, a year that included the district’s aggressive response to 5 years of drought.

In his first comments as chair, Varela thanked Keegan for her leadership on the board as whole, and her mentorship to him personally.

“Leadership is all about guiding and showing people the pathway, and giving them the opportunity to rise at their own level.  You’ve shown what leadership is truly all about,” he said. “I am sincerely proud to be part of this dais, and this group of decision makers and policymakers.”


  1. Congrats to Chair John Varela and Vice Chair Richard Santos whose reputations as dedicated and compassionate servants precede them.
    District 1 resident, Norma Callender


    1. There has been a feasibility study and environmental report on the possible expansion of Shasta Lake. One of the key issues is how an expansion would adversely affect the McCloud River and its fisheries. Financing such a project would be a major challenge, and there are several other obstacles, such as the inundation of numerous Native American cultural sites, impacts to recreation, impacts to private lands, and impacts to wildlife habitat and special status plant species. While this project is not moving forward at this time, we are exploring several other water supply options, including participating in the expansion of other reservoirs.


    1. The rates we charge are largely driven by infrastructure repair and replacement needs. We have major projects to seismically retrofit three of our reservoirs, and we are improving water supply reliability through the development of drought-proof recycled/purified water supplies. Our Rinconada Water Treatment Plant is undergoing a major upgrade, which will extend its life for the next 50 years. We also have significant challenges in rehabilitating many miles of aging pipelines. Having more water available is welcomed, but it does not reduce many of our fixed costs. We have several initiatives to minimize the amount of rate increases needed to continue to provide a reliable supply of safe, clean water.


  2. Stevens Creek Teservoir. I have noticed this season that it keeps on being drained. The first time from approximately 92% full to 72% full and then a second time (don’t have those numbers). There is probably a good reason why, but as an outside observer it seems wasteful. Can you please explain what is happening.


    1. Thank you for your inquiry Tony. During recent storms we release water from reservoirs that are at risk of spilling or actually spilling. This is to provide flood protection to homes and businesses in the vicinity.


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