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.
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.”