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IID Board Prepares Reorganization of Public Affairs Department

-Editorial

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors met at their regular meeting on June 6 to discuss various issues that included a presentation on how to improve public affairs strategies. 

On Dec. 20, 2022, the board voted to form a Public Affairs Workgroup composed of Directors J.B. Hamby and Karin Eugenio as well as the general manager to develop written recommendations to assess the adequate level of resources and staffing dedicated to public affairs efforts and programming compared to similar public water power utilities across California.

During the last few months, the workgroup in conjunction with the Assistant General Manager, Human Resources, Finance, General Service, and Real Estate departments explored different options to organize a Public Affairs Department that would be equipped with the necessary resources to help the district navigate through impending internal and external challenges that will require enhanced government affairs, community outreach, and public information efforts.

Key findings:

Work product is limited by limited staffing resources.

• Most people don’t understand 99% of what IID does.

• Need for a Public Affairs Department to be familiar with all aspects of the organization and more closely coordinate with departments.

• Need for the department to focus on its core mission with the Public Affairs Department providing support.

• Proactive assistance is needed. Fear of getting “rushed and crushed” by upcoming big changes.

• Need for a greater focus on customer service/needs and community involvement.

The fiscal impact will be an increase of $257,033 to the 2023 Public Affairs Department budget, currently the Government Affairs and Communications sections, and an increase of $1,189,000 to the same department’s budget for next year.

The opportunities that the group found was that the Public Affairs Department can “fill the vacuum” to develop and coordinate public messaging locally and beyond. Highlight the wins, greater ability to tackle new issues and needs, opportunities for enhanced internal communications, culture building, and morale. The Public Affairs Department can help to better prepare customers for big issues such as drought, rate adjustment, electrification, conservation, etc.

Director Javier Gonzalez raised some concerns about the costs this new department will incur. He reminded the board that he ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility but ended up giving his support to this initiative which will come back for approval at a later date. 

In other items, the board nominated Director Gina Dockstader to participate in the biannual elections for the Association of California Water Agencies regional board of directors. The Region 9 board of directors, encompassing San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial Counties, determines the direction and focus of regional issues and activities for the organization and supports the fulfillment of ACWA’s goals on behalf of its members.

ACWA’s website describes the organization as the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the United States, representing more than 430 public agency members that are collectively responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered to cities, farms, and businesses in California. Their mission is to provide comprehensive leadership, advocacy, and resources for California pubic water agencies to promote the development, management, and use of good quality water in an environmentally sustainable and fiscally responsible manner.

Also, Director Javier Gonzalez appointed former Calexico Mayor Armando “Mandy” Real to the Energy Consumers Advisory Commission. 

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