Santa Clara Valley Water District Sticks with CEO Norma Camacho

A national search for a new chief at the Santa Clara Valley Water District netted an empty catch, so the agency in charge of the South Bay’s flood control and drinking water stuck with a familiar face.

Norma Camacho, the interim CEO since March 2016, will assume the role on a permanent basis after a split vote last week by the district’s board of directors. The decision, still to be finalized, was made after the board conducted two rounds of interviews with final candidates.

In a statement, board chair John Varela lauded Camacho’s “ability to lead this complex organization through major challenges in reducing flood risks, providing a reliable water supply and protecting our watersheds.”

The press release made no mention of the February flood in San Jose that caused more than a hundred million dollars in property damage, displaced hundreds of residents and might have been preventable had the district looked at installing low-tech pumps at Anderson Dam.

A district employee since 2012, after leaving the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, Camacho is considered a safe choice. But she was far from a consensus pick, as her appointment was made on a 4-3 vote, according to a source.

In many ways, Camacho represents a hedge in moving away from the old guard, or “water buffalos,” an industry term that refers to older male executives who are a little too certain of their expertise. Despite reportedly having a rocky relationship with former CEO Beau Goldie, Camacho offered zero public criticism of her predecessor, who broke district bylaws by giving public money to a consultant with loads of conflicts of interest.

However, she has instituted some internal changes by firing or nudging several top administrators out the door in the last year. This includes former chief administrative officer Jesus Nava and chief operating officer Jim Fiedler, who was in charge of the district’s emergency flood control operations in February.

Camacho’s appointment will be finalized at an upcoming board meeting.

Below is the full press release sent out by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

On Thursday, July 27, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors selected Norma Camacho as the chief executive officer of the water district. Camacho has served as interim CEO since March 2016.

This selection follows a nationwide search for the water district’s new executive, with support from the executive search firm Korn Ferry. The board conducted two rounds of interviews with the final candidates.

Her new position will become effective after the board has formally approved the terms and conditions of an employment contract at an upcoming regular board meeting.

“Ms. Camacho has demonstrated her ability to lead this complex organization through major challenges in reducing flood risks, providing a reliable water supply and protecting our watersheds,” said Board Chair John L. Varela. “The board has great confidence that our new CEO will help us provide the vital services our community needs and expects.”

“I feel honored to be chosen to lead this dynamic organization at a crucial time in its history,” said Ms. Camacho. “With major investments in water supply infrastructure, environmental work and flood protection improvements in our near future, it’s a challenging, yet exciting time for all of us who work every day to serve the people of Santa Clara County.”

As for her priorities, Ms. Camacho said, “We must focus on preparing for future wet and dry years to ensure our residents have a reliable water supply, no matter what extreme weather the changing climate brings. We are committed to protecting our environment and are working to restore habitat along creeks and the bay, clean toxins from the water, and make sure water is used efficiently. And we remain dedicated to keeping residents and businesses safe through our flood protection programs.”

Prior to her appointment as interim CEO, Ms. Camacho was the district’s chief operating officer for Watersheds Operations. She joined the water district in March 2012.

Ms. Camacho has more than 25 years of long-range planning, program development, finance, and capital projects experience. Before she joined Santa Clara Valley Water District, she was the director of the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, directing day-to-day operations of a 142-person organization with a budget of $59 million. Prior to that position she served in the Ventura County Executive Office as deputy executive director of finance and budgets.

Ms. Camacho holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (structural) from Stanford University. She is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Public Works Association.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the California Urban Water Agencies, WateReuse, Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Organization, and San Jose Evergreen Community College Foundation. She is also a member of the Santa Clara City Managers’ Association and the Bay Area Water Agencies Coalition.

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The Santa Clara Valley Water District manages an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean, safe water, flood protection and stewardship of streams on behalf of Santa Clara County's nearly 1.9 million residents. The district effectively manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, nearly 400 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 275 miles of streams. We provide wholesale water and groundwater management services to local municipalities and private water retailers who deliver drinking water directly to homes and businesses throughout Santa Clara County.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

23 Comments

  1. Oh WOW!

    The most qualified Water DIstrict CEO in the entire United States of America!

    Right here in our own back yard!

    What great luck!

    The Santa Clara Valley Water DIstrict must be humming like a top.

    • How dare you SJO! The future of politics is Camacho! She is the great great grandmother of our future POTUS! Get out of here with your snarkyness.

  2. Well hope everyone noticed the 1 million dollar board room they voted on after many ppl proved and showed managers let the system fail that is there now. I can tell you they already have over 500k in consultants and staff time! What ever happened to all the equipment the SrIT tech bought to upgrade the system, all scraped, brand new gear paid for with tax money gone, over 200k in improvements were done to the BR, but the govt way let it break, tax payers will pay, will let them flood, keep buying gear. Watch the BR will never happen for the 1 million they say, as what about the cost the last 5yrss, the consultant, 2-4 new managers, and no av company will touch that room for 70k in labor 800k for equipment. watch this unfold….. some of the sr tech they got rid off, read the techs story, read the audit 2012 read Pauls story all under the rug.
    https://pgoeltz.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/santa-clara-valley-water-district-look-like-fools-10-28-14-lying-cao-ceo-staff-read-watch-truth/ YES AND NOW THEY HAVE ANOTHER OF THERE ON CULTURE …. GET IN GET MASSIVE BENNIES, GET FIRED GO TO NEXT PLACE, TO SUCK TAX DOLLARS….
    LETS NOT FORGET http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2017/02/21/flooding-in-san-jose-prompts-evacuations-rescue-missions/
    https://pgoeltz.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/scvwd-waste-fraud-scvwd-5-24-16-6pm/

      • Thank you! few very few, make headway with the ultra spoiled psychopaths, who run the district, and board. You see the millions go to used parks, perks, flooding, waste etc. you can watch listen to all local govts, the waste, and abuse, but the citizens put up with it as they have slight hope of victory. sadly as a worker that told all in front of the board, i have been excommunicated. If you see this man call security immediately.

          • @noname sound is loud and clear. @scvwd managers and staff and yourself can listen to what you want! the information is there showing collusion between staff and upper managers, in the destruction of taxpayers property, and all have been proven lairs. And noname your apparently part of the problem. Does it bother you that the truth is out there for the world to see,

          • @noname does it bother you that the truth is out there, and it involves you and many others? who cares if no one cares about theft, and destruction of property. Lairs. Who cares about managers that lie and tell personal information to staff and other employees. its your property also. The public has lost face in @[email protected] and it because ppl like you that ruin this country. who cares about the audit 2012 that tells the world about how cruel the upper managers are and wonder why there is not more lawsuits. Happy to have a get together, if you feel the need.
            Its likley ppl like yourself that has caused the rift between worker and managers.
            ‘@noname maybe your the one that reported only 2 laptops missing when well over 20 were missing,,,,,, so i understand you paranoia.
            lalalalala, maybe your the one that approved av purchases of sound and video reinforcement gear, but never use it, thats over 80k worth of equipment that sits. or maybe like my things you junked all that new equipment.

        • Shame they have lied from day one, what is transparent? there back rooms check list or the IT manager stopping work so the system will break. Listening to the new IT manager, if you think this will be under 1 million NO already over 500k has been spent. and they will not get this built for 1mil! 4k hd to watch your tax dollars be wasted. the first system went to grand jury and over budget, fixes were implemented with out testing. you can get what ever mic you want, but if you dont talk into the mic, guess what….. E voting could have happened years ago. But staff wants sole source. Labor 70k not today. Should takar not have asked these questions in 2014? All staff input, but dont forget the tech. As for Santos and hearing get a t-coil hello, we got one for another director.
          if you really took public interest you would have looked and read all reports. No big deal bid is going out and they still dont know what they want. AND TAX PAYER IS PAYING.If flipping a switch is no big deal use the amx touch panel in front of you to turn mic on/off, RTS, etc. And buy all the mics you want if you cannot speak into them you are the taxpayer will not hear you. If so transparent ask the IT boss where all the new equipment went or sat! It really looks like the new EOC helped. all docs online, google scvwd paul,paul goeltz, boardroom or ask Tom i will provide it all.

          • >If flipping a switch is no big deal use the amx touch panel in front of you to turn mic on/off, RTS, etc.

            I’ve actually built systems like this using high end sound cards, specifically the MOTO MK3. It provides an OSC (Open sound control) interface, so you can whip up a nice UI using puredata.

            You would actually want a switch mechanically isolated from the soft mixer for a variety of reasons. People are dumb, often times twisting knobs so hard that they break. If they break the touch screen, you replace it. If you’re into this stuff, look up touchosc on the google play or itunes store. Not to knock your points here, but I’ve done IT support for 24 years, I would much rather do a touch screen than give them a switch from a reliability standpoint.

          • @Robert they have modern 4×6 touch screens (amx) with speakers, with pages, internet, anything can be programmed into them. etc, but most dont read the card in front of them explaining use the request to speak button to get in Que so chair can select you, or use the mic on/off button to break in if you want, they had switches there in 2000, replaced with touch panel, that even can handle voting, internet, etc etc, but the IT bosses decided to stop upgrades and work on the system and let things fail. And again The IT folks in charge have no concept of what they are doing, as you saw last night its going to bid, and they have no idea what they want. Even the on site tech refuses top go along with the project for what they have done to him and myself. He will support and do his job, but will leave the board room failure to the IT managers, upper staff, that screwed things up. They say its 17 yrs old not true another lie as it was refurbished in 2008 for 100k and from 08-12 another say 100 k was added, video conferencing was there until a manager took it, they talk about the public vision, well the public does not all have gigibit connection to watch, but go ahead ad hd 4k to see the waste of tax dollars, they look fine and images look fine @ the resolution displayed. Just like wars we need to keep spending or the economy tanks. But let the children play.

  3. SJWC is not called the golden piece of crap for a reason. They should change their slogan to “you scratch my back and we will all be rich in pensions”. PS, we don’t give a crap about the flood victims, lets just up the fees for water.

      • You’re right. This is about the Silicon Valley Water District NOT the San Jose Water Company.

        San Jose Water Company is a DIFFERENT scandal.

        I feel better now.

        No. Wait. I DON’T feel better now.

  4. Presumably, the tens of millions of dollars that the Water District has spent reworking various reaches of the Guadalupe River will translate to reduced risk of flooding.
    And presumably that reduced risk of flooding will translate to property owners being alleviated of FEMA’s requirement to purchase flood insurance.
    And presumably the director of the water district will communicate that information to the affected property owners instead of just keeping them in the dark and expecting them to keep quiet and continue obediently paying her bloated salary.

  5. At 8:30 am on July 31, our senior managers, Katherine Oven, Vincent Gin and Ngoc Nguyen ordered all unit managers and supervisors to assemble in the cafeteria to celebrate this news. About 100 of us were there for 90 minutes to celebrate and pledge our loyalty to the Queen on the Throne, Norma Camacho. Absurd and really despicable waste of taxpayer money to eat donuts, show our faces in support and pledge our loyalty to her.
    We heard she plans to appoint Melanie Richardson to a permanent position of the Chief Operating Officer for Watersheds in the coming weeks. This is the same lady who is totally conflicted because of RMC’ contract work at the Water District.. In fact, her husband, Tom Richardson spent better half of Friday, July 28 schmoozing with Garth Hall, the acting replacement of Jim Fielder so the current groundwater management and sole source opportunity for recycled water business. So, stay tuned on that one

    • Normal upper management, and manager behavior, if you want to be the 1% that is liked and groomed for future roles.

  6. Laawddd have mercy! The wrong that goes on at this water tank! Scandal after scandal and no accountability . What they need to invest in is some HOLY WATER for some of the upper management and Directors with all this blatant wrong doing …

  7. Who holds these nimrods accountable? I’m not sure you can. The City Council gives them a free ride, if a pipe breaks, they raise our rates, hell they charge us for water we used four years ago, that we paid for then. They have more add-ons than AT&T, all for a commodity that comes from the sky. Yeah, Yeah they have to gather it, filter it and so forth but the CEO makes 20 million dollars a year? For what, praying for rain? The drought is over and yet we are made to feel guilty for watering our lawns, or Lordy, Lordy taking a longer shower. What is recycled water? I guess Ms Richardson and her husband know. They’re the players that clean and sell it back to the water company…….right? I wish there was competition and these clowns would have to scramble to be competitive.

  8. Quite possibly the worst managed, most scandal-ridden, inefficient and ineffective, most wasteful and unaccountable, public agency in the Bay Area that excels only in lavish and wasteful spending on itself, its management, and board. As bad or even worse than the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Unbelievable.

  9. Tom Richardson just left RMC Water and Environment and is now working for HDR. Coincidentally, HDR is just about to get a $24.2M amendment to their existing agreement (which was $9.1M) per item 5.2 of the 8/22/17 agenda. Click on the amendment, and go to item 3. His name is listed as key staff in the agreement.

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