Turlock Irrigation District’s only race this year features Tracy Sunde, a retired science teacher focused on renewable energy, challenging six-year incumbent Michael Frantz on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Board member Rob Santos, unopposed, will keep his seat. Frantz’s Division I covers east Turlock, Denair, Hughson and Hickman.
“I have a dream, a vision for TID,” Sunde said, describing a self-sufficient public-owned utility with no need to augment electricity supply by buying from outside sources. “I thought it was a very progressive company when we moved here in 1971, and I sense in the last few years they’ve lost that vision.”
Frantz noted that the Union of Concerned Scientists pronounced TID one of California’s greenest utilities in 2012. He wants to continue TID’s reputation, he said, for affordable and reliable power and water.
“I have a heart for the Tuolumne River,” said Frantz, whose Hickman nursery is on its bank; the river supplies TID water and generates some of its electricity. “I’ve always felt like TID is a wonderful part of the community story,” he said.
I think you’re a great guy. I appreciate you coming to our meetings and laughing at my jokes.
Michael Frantz, TID incumbent, to challenger Tracy Sunde
I didn’t run because I had something against you.
Challenger Tracy Sunde, to TID incumbent Michael Frantz
Frantz was selected among 11 applicants to fill a board vacancy in 2009 and was re-elected in 2011. TID’s biggest challenge is fending off “those who covet our water supply,” or state and federal agencies and wildlife advocates, he said.
“This community is at a tipping point. We’ve built success around a farming culture. Reliable power and water are necessary for farms to survive, but both are threatened” by a state river flow proposal, he said. “TID will do everything in its power to protect the water that belongs to this region.”
TID consciously reduced its deep-well pumping this year “to protect residential homeowners” with nearby domestic wells, Frantz said. Several of those that went dry in the past couple of years, apparently in competition with larger wells, are in his division.
TID’s renewable energy portfolio, including power from water, wind and solar sources, should have been beefed up 20 years ago, Sunde said, as opposed to the past few years in reply to state mandates.
“They’ve done a lot of reacting rather than acting,” Sunde said. “I think we should be the leaders in solar energy,” making TID more self-sufficient and less vulnerable “to whims of the marketplace,” he said.
Over time, TID’s electorate has shifted from country folk toward those in cities, Sunde said. “The urban population needs to have some voice on the board,” keeping an eye on electricity prices and groundwater management, he said.
As of the latest reporting period, Frantz had raised $11,633 in campaign money, and Sunde had received $1,450.
Formed in 1887, TID sells power to 98,000 customers. Its 58,000 water customers farm nearly 150,000 acres – more than twice the Modesto Irrigation District’s 58,000 acres.
TID pays board members $1,000 a month.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390
NAME: Michael Frantz
EMPLOYMENT: Co-owner, Frantz Wholesale Nursery, Hickman
QUOTE: “I feel good about the support I’ve received from the community at large.”
NAME: Tracy Sunde
EMPLOYMENT: Retired Hilmar High School physical sciences teacher
QUOTE: “I’m a forward-looking individual; I see what’s happening. I guess I’m a bit of a dreamer.”