Charley Wolk was selected as the at-large director of the North County Joint Powers Authority (JPA).
The joint powers agency board initially consisted of three members from the Fallbrook Public Utility District and three members from the Rainbow Municipal Water District. Those members were directed to select an at-large member to give the North County Joint Powers Authority an odd number of directors, and on April 17 the JPA board voted 6-0 to select Wolk as the at-large member.
“We’re excited about having him on the board and drawing upon his expertise,” said JPA board president Dennis Sanford. “We’re looking for him to add to the board.”
The JPA board members were seeking an at-large director who might, but was not required to, live in one district but owned a business or property in the other district. Wolk owns Bejoca Grove and Landscape Management, which serves farms in both districts as well as in other North County and southern Riverside County districts.
“He has operations in both districts, so we’re really looking forward to him bringing a bunch of institutional knowledge, especially in agriculture,” said JPA executive officer Brian Brady.
The at-large board member was required to be a resident of the JPA area, which eliminated applicant Robert Lavelle of Oceanside from consideration. The other six applicants were Dale Diamond, Karl Fekete, James Howell, Tim O’Leary, Dick Olson, and Ken Roth.
“I believe that, because of my experience, I had something to offer to the process,” Wolk said. “I believe I can contribute because of my past involvement and experience.”
Wolk, who retired from the United States Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1980, has lived in Fallbrook for more than 40 years. He owned a grove himself and started Bejoca Grove and Landscape Management in 1977 as he was approaching his military retirement. Wolk, who was born and raised in St. Louis, was in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Marquette University before becoming an active-duty Marine and is credited with 23 years of Marine Corps service.
Wolk expanded his grove business after his retirement from the military. Bejoca’s current and historical crops include avocados, citrus, fuyus, cherimoyas, persimmons, and flowers. Wolk is a past chairman or president of the California Avocado Commission, the Hass Avocado Board, the California Fuyu Growers Association, and the San Diego County Farm Bureau, and he is also a past president of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce. He currently chairs the California Avocado Commission’s Water Committee and the San Diego Irrigated Lands Group.
“He’s served in a number of capacities in the community,” Brady said.
Wolk spent 14 years on the Fallbrook Public Utility District board, initially being appointed to fill a vacancy and then serving three full terms. In the November 1994 election Wolk was defeated by Arne Gunnarsson, a resident of the former DeLuz Heights Municipal Water District which consolidated with FPUD in 1990. The November 1994 election also saw voters approve the merger of FPUD with the Fallbrook Sanitary District, which comprised about 4,500 acres within the 28,000-acre FPUD but about 70% of the voters, by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin.
“He’s got some experience,” Sanford said of Wolk being on the FPUD board during those two consolidations.
“The DeLuz merger was a cordial, loving courtship which ended up in a marriage and the sanitary district was a shotgun wedding,” Wolk said. “It did make a difference because of those circumstances.”
DeLuz was a municipal water district, as is Rainbow. Board members of a municipal water district are elected by division. Board members of FPUD are elected to specific seats but by the entire district. “One of the issues is governance, who sits on the new board,” Wolk said of consolidation.
The DeLuz district was officially dissolved, placing the former municipal water district area into a public utility district. “A public utility district can provide community services for anything expect police,” Wolk said.
Wolk explained that a public utility district has latent powers for electric, flood, lighting, and other functions as well as water and sewer services.
Gunnarsson had not been on the DeLuz board, and none of those board members sought to join the FPUD board after the merger. “When we did that consolidation with DeLuz it was very easy,” Wolk said.
The consolidation with the sanitary district temporarily gave FPUD seven directors, as the two most senior directors of the dissolved district joined the FPUD board. “It was a lot more complicated than when we did DeLuz,” Wolk said.
In February, the FPUD and Rainbow boards voted to create the joint powers authority which will allow for functional consolidation between the two districts while maintaining separate governing structures. Functional consolidation can either be an interim step towards jurisdictional consolidation or an alternative to a merger which would allow each agency to keep its own governing board.
“To me the goal of the JPA is to go through this transition and consolidate the districts,” Wolk said. “I’m very confident that there will be considerable savings to the ratepayers.”