Rick Callender will be the next CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Water District starting July 11.
The agency’s Board of Directors on Tuesday voted 4-3 to appoint the longtime water district employee to the top position, where he’ll earn $326,352 annually to oversee the agency, tasked with the critical job of ensuring safe water in the region and providing flood protection.
Directors Tony Estremera, Richard Santos, John Varela and Gary Kremen voted to appoint Callender to the job. Board Chair Nai Hsueh and directors Linda LeZotte and Barbara Keegan voted against.
The vote came with few comments by board members, who had already discussed and voted on the appointment earlier this month during a closed-door meeting.
Some details of that private meeting were leaked, leading to a May 2 email blast by the San Jose Silicon Valley NAACP congratulating Callender on his promotion. Callender is second vice president of the California/Hawaii State Conference for NAACP.
Though the meeting Tuesday was not contentious, the fact that there was a divide on the board about whether Callender should serve as the next CEO was apparent.
Estremera assured that Valley Water “had a pretty vibrant search,” that spanned across the country before approving the contract that would cement Callender’s appointment.
Keegan meanwhile kept her comments short ahead of her vote, saying “I have to vote my conscience. I vote no.”
Hsueh, who also voted against the appointment, congratulated Callender.
“This board will definitely work with the new CEO and we’ll attack one challenge at a time, no matter what the challenges are,” she said. “Working together is the way to go.”
Callender, who also serves on this news organization’s Board of Directors, will replace Norma Camacho who announced last November she’d retire on July 10. He has been with the water district since 1996, and has been second in command as the agency’s chief of external affairs since 2017.
“I do want to thank the majority of the board for your strong show of support and the community for the strong show of support to say that I’m the right person for this organization right now,” Callender said.
Many of Callender’s friends, colleagues and associates logged in to the virtual board of directors meeting Tuesday to congratulate the new CEO and throw their support behind the decision.
“It’s a great choice that you guys have made to select Rick Callender,” Walter Wilson, CEO of the Silicon Valley Minority Business Consortium, told directors Tuesday. “I’ve known him most of his life and he is a great leader in our community and he’s been wonderful for the water district.”
In all, 56 people applied for the position, nine were interviewed and four candidates made it to the final round of consideration, according to Estremera.
Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: Rick Callender serves on San José Spotlight’s Board of Directors.