The Cambrian

Cambria Community Services District candidate statements

From left, Muril Clift, Tom Gray, Mike McLaughlin, Amanda Rice and Gail Robinette.
From left, Muril Clift, Tom Gray, Mike McLaughlin, Amanda Rice and Gail Robinette.

The Cambrian asked the six candidates on the ballot for three seats on the Cambria Community Services District board for 300-word statements with a few words about why they are running, their experience and how it would make them a better director, as well as what they see as major challenges to the district and what their priorities will be. They appear here in the order they appear on the ballot. No response was received from candidate Kim McDaniel. Read questions for the candidates and their answers »

Muril Clift

For four years I have been honored to serve as a director of the Cambria Community Services District. I am proud of my role in the board’s accomplishment in the areas of demonstrating financial responsibility, seeking alternate water sources and improving staff morale and productivity.

Since my appointment to the board in 2008, our community and nation experienced a severe economic downturn. During this time the CCSD board applied prudent fiscal policies. First, expenses dropped 6 percent, or $450,000, despite previously negotiated contracts requiring automatic increases. Second, the number of fulltime employees dropped 18 percent without a reduction in services to the community. Third, the board has accomplished its fiscal goals without a drop in its reserves needed to protect the community.

The board redirected its emphasis from large water projects, which face extreme regulatory complications, to smaller, doable, environmentally friendly projects. I believe that a combination of these projects and increased conservation, will allow for new ratepayers beginning in 2013. Adding new ratepayers should reduce the likelihood of general rate increases.

The board also improved the overall morale of the district’s staff. Hiring a new, community-involved general manager has energized the staff, creating improved productivity.

The future holds promise for further accomplishments in fiscal responsibility and customer service.

1. The cooperation between the CCSD and the healthcare district could result in better coordination of resources, additional clinical services for the community and cost savings.

2. The planned conservation program will assist customers in upgrading the water fixtures in their homes and businesses, resulting in savings on their water bills.

To have the opportunity to continue working on these important issues, I ask for your vote.

Tom Gray

I am running for the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors because I believe that I can be of service to my fellow Cambrians.

My professional life has been spent in journalism — as a reporter, editorial writer, editor and author — and in communications consulting for nonprofit and business clients. Through this work I have gained plenty of knowledge about the challenges that local governments face. And I have come to know Cambria’s particular challenges through my involvement in the North Coast Advisory Council, where I have chaired the Land Use Committee and where I now chair the full council.

My experience has taught me some truths about public office. One is that those who talk the most don’t necessarily speak for the whole community. Another is that governments, even when made up of good people, tend to waste money.These facts lead me to the priorities that I will follow as a member of the CCSD board.

First and foremost, I will make sure the district is fiscally responsible and will not raise your water and sewer rates. I will work to reduce all long-term liabilities such as pensions and retiree healthcare costs. I will seek out all possible savings to be gained from administrative mergers, contracting or joint efforts with other government entities.

Second, I am committed to building a reliable supplemental water supply for Cambria. The CCSD has narrowed the range of proposed projects to the small number that are technically feasible, could be financed without raising rates for current customers and would not allow excessive growth. Of these, the most promising is brackish-water treatment near the mouth of San Simeon Creek. I favor moving forward with it, and I think most Cambrians who truly want the water problem solved will agree with me.

Mike McLaughlin

I am a candidate for a director’s position on the CCSD for several reasons. I am committed to maintain Cambria’s village atmosphere.

I have financial management experience, having served since 1994 as chairperson for a $30 million Labor-Management Medical Trust Fund.

I have demonstrated that I am a leader, not only in my past but here in Cambria as well. I am a past vice-president of Cambria Lions and past president of my Church’s Pastoral Council, as well as member of its Finance Council while currently serving as a Pastoral Council member.

I am in touch with the needs of our youth. I coach baseball at Coast Union High School and substitute-teach at the middle and high schools. We need to expand recreational opportunities for the youth of Cambria.I support moderate, measured growth, guided by environmental standards. Of course, that is contingent on having a reliable, alternate source of water.

I want to address the major issue of fire safety immediately. The pump station on the Rodeo Grounds is in a flood zone. It should be upgraded and moved to an elevated location. Because it stores water to be used in a fire, the construction of a new Stuart Street tank facility must be expedited.

I mediated differences of opinion and reached mutually agreed resolutions as an attorney. An effective board member needs that capability.

Now is a great time to bring a new perspective to the workings of the CCSD. Since we no longer have disruptive forces like the dismissal of the general manager clouding everything the CCSD board attempted to do, I believe I can offer that needed perspective and ability.

Amanda Rice

Clear continuity, understanding and knowledge. During my 11 years here, I’ve been active with numerous local organizations including the Homeless Animal Rescue Team, the Cambria Youth Center and Cambria’s Anonymous Neighbors. I’ve been on the North Coast Advisory Council since 2006 and have served on the Cambria Forest Committee.

Through these activities and others, I’ve come to understand the concerns and passions of my neighbors and the challenges facing our community. What I like best about Cambria is the people and the way we care about each other and work together to make our community stronger.

In my career as a teacher and citizen, my focus has been to encourage people to be actively involved and engaged in their communities., a blog I’ve written since 2007, is an ongoing example of my extensive knowledge of the issues and nuances of life in Cambria.

As a CCSD director, I will focus my oversight of the district on fair and intelligent management of the resources that belong to all of us: water and its infrastructure; fire protection; and our shared public spaces, like the Veterans Memorial Building and Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. This also means making sure the district is being smart about how and where our money is spent.

My vision for Cambria is a village that is sustainable, resilient and thriving; a community working together to make choices that are affordable and environmentally sound. As director I will encourage an inclusive, collaborative atmosphere where it’s OK if we don’t always agree. After all, you don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note. But we can do better. In fact, I think we could be a model community for how to do it right — whether “it” is water supply, emergency services or thriving without becoming overgrown or environmentally destructive. Learn more at

Gail Robinette

As a current CCSD director, one of my highest priorities has been to establish a respectful relationship with all community members. As the board considers prudent and cost effective solutions to challenges, and determines important next steps in responding to community needs, input from all stakeholders is vital. I strongly believe in encouraging dialogue and a shared approach to problem solving.

Some of the board actions I voted to endorse: approval of a fiscally sound 2012 budget; assignment of the North Coast Rescue Team as a volunteer support organization to the Cambria Fire Department; reducing the alternative water contingency from 400 to 250 acre feet; maintaining Veterans Memorial Building fees at the current rate for local nonprofit organizations; a partnership with the local dog park; and limiting the use of consultants.

In addition to my work on the board, I have served as chair, vice-chair, and trails commissioner of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission. I was instrumental in promoting a partnership between the local trails committee and the county that resulted in planning and completion of the Moonstone Beach coastal connector trail. I was also a member of the build-out reduction finance committee that set fees on future, allowable, new residences in order to generate additional district revenues for essential improvements and ensure that Cambria will “live within its water means.”

My priorities/challenges for CCSD include: providing financial incentives to residents for installation of water conservation upgrades; assessing current water and wastewater infrastructure and developing a proactive renovation timeline for essential repairs; determining/implementing an affordable, environmentally viable water alternative; using new technologies to locate and repair water leaks; ensuring that open space and environmental needs are protected; providing hiking, walking and educational opportunities for all ages.

It would be my privilege to continue to serve our community as your director.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune