Coachella Valley Water District appoints longtime public servant in the Coachella Valley to the board

CATHEDRAL CITY —Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) has appointed John Aguilar, who made history in this community as the first Latino mayor, to the board seat recently vacated by G. Patrick O’Dowd.

Aguilar has a history commitment to public service. His new role is an extension of that commitment.

Voters first elected Aguilar to the City Council on Nov. 8, 2016. Before that he served as an appointed member of the City Council from September 2014 to early December 2014, and again from December 2014 to December 2016 after then-Councilmember Stan Henry was elected mayor.

Aguilar accepted the council seat appointment in order to encourage greater participation from Cathedral City’s Hispanic community as well as other underrepresented communities.

He chose not to seek re-election in the Nov.3 election. His term expired in December.

Aguilar is retired from Riverside County where he served as Deputy Director for Riverside County Economic Development Agency’s Housing Authority.

His appointment to the Coachella Valley Water District took effect Dec. 9, 2020.

Following is a Q&A he participated in with Uken Report.

Uken Report (UR): Why did you want this appointment specifically?

John Aguilar: I previously sat on the city’s 2X2 joint City/Coachella Valley Water District committee, which focused on issues of common concern and it prompted me to learn more about Coachella Valley Water District and its impact on the Valley. As you know, water resources for our Valley are incredibly important to the economy, the environment and health and safety of people in our community.  I am beyond thrilled to be able to serve in this capacity where I can help protect those resources.  The Coachella Valley Water District Board and organization have a very successful record of preservation and water service management and I believe I can further that success.

UR: I understand you have a strong interest in preservation. What does that mean to you? Do you have some specific ideas?

John Aguilar: Conservation, preservation of our resources, and sustainability were all areas of strong interest for me at the city and I would like to continue that priority at the Coachella Valley Water District.  The District has a very strong conservation program so I am eager to learn in greater detail about how they have worked and areas that might be improved.  Water is critical to an important balance between stimulating growth and economic success, particularly in this pandemic environment.

UR: Did anyone encourage you seek the appointment? If so, who?

John Aguilar: Yes, Supervisor (V. Manuel) Perez who has a key interest in water issues, including providing clean water to many of the residents of the East Valley, initially approached me about applying.  The Supervisor and I have a long history of collaboration and I have great respect for the work he has, and continues to do, on behalf of his constituents in the Fourth District.  I also had encouragement from other local elected leaders and after discussing this with my partner, I decided to apply.

UR: You certainly left an imprint on Cathedral City politics, first as a Councilmember than as Mayor. Knowing you just took office at CVWD, how do you plan to make your mark?

John Aguilar:  I am still developing my ideas. I have a lot to learn about our water resources and I hope that my experience can be valuable to the Board, staff and community members in a meaningful way.

UR: You are a seasoned local politician. Is there a learning curve with this appointment? How so? Tell us one thing you’ve learned that you did not know before.

John Aguilar: There is a significant learning curve here.  I knew CVWD was expansive but did not know that the District provides seven different water-related services to more than 300,000 residents and businesses across three counties that cover over 1,000 square miles.  I also just learned that CVWD is one of only two water agencies that has rights to both Colorado River Water and State Water Project Water.  I am diving in all the way to learn more about all the ways the District serves its Community.

UR: An idea has been floated to consolidate CVWD and Mission Springs Water District. Any thoughts on that?

John Aguilar: Only that I am aware that CVWD and Mission Springs Water District work collaboratively on a number of efforts for the Valley including the Regional Water Management Plan and compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Aguilar was the only person to seek the Division 1 seat that was vacated when O’Dowd resigned Nov. 3 to take a post as Executive Director of the Salton Sea Authority. The board discussed an option to hold a special election to fill the seat but agreed to an appointment as the more cost-effective option. Directors must live in the division they represent.

Coachella Valley Water District is a public agency governed by a five-member board of treatment and reclamation services, regional storm water protection, groundwater management and water conservation. It serves approximately 108,000 residential and business customers across 1,000 square miles, located primarily in Riverside County, but also in portions of Imperial and San Diego counties.

Image Sources

  • John Aguilar: CVWD