Modesto businessman steps up for Van Groningen MID seat

gstapley@modbee.comJuly 1, 2013 

    alternate textGarth Stapley
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: Regional water, growth, land-use and transportation; civil law, real estate fraud and special projects
    Bio: In his 19 years with The Bee, Garth Stapley has focused on city and county government

— The latest candidate for the Modesto Irrigation District board is starting from a different place than five others.

Paul Campbell, a Modesto businessman, has nothing bad to say about the current MID board.

When asked about the only other declared candidate in his race, Campbell said simply, "I don't know him.

"But I bring proven leadership in my business and Air Force career, and I've had a positive impact on those who serve under me," he added.

Campbell, 50, hopes to succeed the MID's Tom Van Groningen, representing northeast Modesto. So far, the only opponent for that seat is Les Johnson, 80; the filing period opens Friday and closes Aug. 9, with a five-day extension for races with no incumbent.

Campbell spent 14 years in the enlisted ranks of the Air Force and Air National Guard before becoming an officer and eventually retiring as a captain with a total of 24 years' service. He worked mostly in personnel, with a stint as operations commander.

He worked seven years for ServiceMaster Building Maintenance in Merced, then bought a Modesto franchise 13 years ago and expanded it from 21 employees to 135.

Unlike Johnson and candidates for other seats, Campbell says he is not primarily motivated by a desire to end the rancor often seen at board meetings, described by some as dysfunctional. He was recruited to run by former MID board member Jeff Cowan and other fellow members of the Modesto Rotary Club.

Campbell said the board's major challenge is balancing the needs of farmers and electricity customers.

"The cost to deliver water needs to come in line with what people pay," he said, adding, "I will make wise decisions to the benefit of all concerned."

The board must develop a policy for selling water, Campbell said, echoing a board consensus last week for the same goal.

Van Groningen and board member Glen Wild, who represents central Modesto, have said they will not seek re-election. John Mensinger hopes to replace Wild.

Also stepping aside is Paul Warda, representing northwest Modesto and Salida. Jake Wenger, Ted Donham and Jim Mortensen have said they will seek his seat.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at or (209) 578-2390.

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