ORO LOMA SANITARY DISTRICT | It took two attempts, but former two-time San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young is again a public servant. On Tuesday, Young was sworn-in as the first female board member in the 103-year history of the Oro Loma Sanitary District.
The five-person board, in fact, has been led by some of the same male board members for the past two decades. Two of the current members are in their 90s and the retirement of a third, Frank Sidari, this summer may have left the door open for Young to win an open seat last month. Young, along with incumbents, Howard Kerr and Tim Becker, all finished within a percent point of each other to win the General Election.
Despite the district’s aging membership, Young isn’t looking for to make wholesale changes on the board which oversees the sewers and recycling for over 135,000 residents in unincorporated Alameda County, Hayward, San Lorenzo and parts of San Leandro . "I look forward to working with the agency and learning more about the vision, objectives and goals from the seasoned veterans who currently serve the district."
“I don’t want to change their way of living,” says Young. “I don’t want change their culture. But, I think women think differently. We bring a different feel to the group.” The view dovetails with Young’s campaign slogan of “I’m the only woman for the job.” Young was the only female candidate in the five-person race.
However, she has a few ideas to add to the board which, in the past, has managed to keep rates low. For starters, Young believes the board could do a better job of working closely with StopWaste.org, the government body assigned to reduce waste in Alameda County. In the past, a few Oro Loma’s more conservative board members have openly questioned StopWaste.org’s usefulness.
Outreach to constituents by the Oro Loma board has been minimal in the past, according to Young. She believes members making personal outreach to residents, such as speaking before homeowners associations, instead of merely mailing out questionnaires, will foster greater participation.
Better communication will be increasingly important over the next few years, says Young, since financing for needed repairs to the district’s 100-year-old sewer system will become an even greater and costly priority.