The Cambrian

New Cambria CSD board president Rice wants directors to focus on oversight

Amanda Rice is sworn in following her re-election during her first meeting as president of the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors in December.
Amanda Rice is sworn in following her re-election during her first meeting as president of the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors in December. sprovost@thetribunenews.com

One in a series of occasional profiles about leaders of community agencies and groups.

Anybody who wonders what changes new board President Amanda Rice might bring to the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors could compare her proposed 2017 goals for the agency with those the board approved last year.

Directors are to discuss and vote on Rice’s proposal at their meeting set for 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19 at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St. She also wants to include the public in the discussion. Her proposed goals are included in the meeting’s agenda packet at www.cambriacsd.org.

In a series of phone interviews last month, Rice said she believes the board should focus on policies and districtwide oversight, rather than concentrating on specific tasks and projects, which should be overseen by General Manager Jerry Gruber and the department heads.

“I approach this opportunity from a place of creative thinking, while not reinventing the wheel,” she explained. Asked to describe her leadership style in three words, Rice replied, “integrity, dedicated, knowledgeable.”

Rice’s supporters say those traits were evident during her leadership of the North Coast Advisory Council, and her determination to stay true to her ideals, rather than toeing the line with fellow CSD directors.

She doesn’t consider herself a minority leader, despite having been on the short end of some votes.

“My views may be a minority in the context of the board,” she said. “But the election results say my positions are well supported, and by more than a minority of Cambrians.”

Rice was the CSD’s top vote-getter in both the 2012 and 2016 elections.

She now wants to apply her leadership experience to the services district board.

“The board is responsible for stewardship of community resources,” she said, “for determining the direction, setting the road map and the priorities for how we’re going to budget.”

Rice explained that the board must “balance the needs of the community with the income available to do that. … We say what the district is to do,” and then Gruber implements the plans.

She thinks there’s room for improvement in how the board does what it’s supposed to do. “We have been reacting and responding to a very serious and slow-moving situation: a drought. It’s not like a flood disaster, where you go in and clean it up … so far, everything’s been done by emergency, which is no way to plan for the vitality of the town.”

Rice explained that “now that we’ve kind of gotten through addressing the main issue” of providing a reliable source of water, the board can “broaden the focus” to include other priorities, “setting higher goals, such as what’s the purpose of the district? Resources, human and monetary. Liabilities. Fixed capital assets to maintain. This year, I’d like to get us in a position of knowing what we have.”

She also believes in having standing committees, which require more staff time for preparing agendas and keeping the public informed.

And style? “I plan to be as informal as reasonable people allow. Everyone will get the same three minutes, no special treatment.” Her teaching experience taught her that “consistency is the way to earn respect for the process.”

Who she is

Rice, 46, was born in Walnut Creek and went to school in the Oakland/Lafayette area, studying at Bishop O’Dowd High School and Chico State. She earned a teaching credential from Tulane University, and taught high school English for five years in New Orleans. She developed the first block-scheduling program in Louisiana, which allowed the school to teach American history and American literature in the same year.

“I’m used to going in and trying to make things work more clearly and connectedly,” Rice explained.

It was a trait that developed early, she said: “When I was in the second grade, I wrote a lesson plan and asked the teacher if I could teach the class. In my being, there’s nothing like watching the light bulb go on in somebody’s head and being part of making that happen, of seeing people learn. Just because I’m not in the classroom anymore doesn’t mean it goes away. It does not go away.”

Since moving to Cambria with husband Gordon Rice in Jan. 2001, she quickly became involved and noticeable, in part for surface things, such as her trendy clothes, high-high heeled shoes and colorful streaks in her auburn hair.

Anybody who assumed that’s all there was to Amanda Rice had a surprise coming.

“My parents also raised me to be participatory, to do public service,” she said. Being on the NCAC and becoming its leader were her first elected positions. However, “I’ve volunteered for many causes, but this is my favorite so far … I love this community, because it acts like a community most of the time.”

The goals

So, Rice’s proposed board goals for 2017 are to:

  • Review the district’s mission statement and vision.
  • “Ensure current delivery of efficient, adequate levels of service within current revenue and environmental constraints, starting with a discussion of how we define ‘efficient’ and ‘adequate.’”
  • Support development of future resiliency and sustainability in district operations, personnel and infrastructure.
  • Build on communication and participation opportunities for the community and with outside agencies.

The board’s 2016 goals were more task-specific, and, according to Rice, off point for a board that should focus on the overall picture for the future rather than the steps needed to get there:

  • Obtain a regular coastal development permit for the Sustainable Water Facility.
  • Assess, prioritize and determine actual costs and potential funding sources … for the first phase of the wastewater treatment plant infrastructure improvements.
  • Continue to identify and determine funding sources for the first phase of the community park.

Rice said each of the 2016 goals falls under one of her proposed 2017 goals, but the final decision will be up to the five directors.

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