September 8, 1997
Steve Gallagher Walter Backstrom Ronald Braun, II
Water commisioner faces three in primary
by Andrew Walgamott
Attention recently focused on the Woodinville Water District drew three candidates into a race against Walter Backstrom, current holder of Board of Commissioners Position 4. One candidate offers plumbing experience, another is a cost analyst for a bank and the third is a young man willing to learn more about conservation.
A commissioner for the Woodinville Water District since April, 1996, Backstrom was appointed to the board after it expanded from three to five positions.
Backstrom, 45, says among his goals, if retained, is the fight against water rate increases and the improvement of customer relations.
A social worker with the Department of Social and Health Services, Backstrom has lived in the area since 1991, serving on the Bothell Planning Commission for two years as well as the Evergreen Hospital Community Advisory Board.
Backstrom says he is proud to have been the first minority member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Association of Water and Sewer Districts. He plays down a recent state audit,which investigated his use of district funds and equipment, and recommended no further action. "That's water under the bridge. My goal is to have a working relationship with the commissioners and work with the rate payers and not let petty bickering get in the way," Backstrom said.
Backstrom lives in downtown Woodinville.
Ronald Braun II
Braun, 38, will bring two decades of plumbing experience to the district if he's elected. "I have been in plumbing for almost 20 years and am the only candidate with hands-on experience with the workings of potable water supply and sewer systems," Braun said.
"The first priority [I have if elected] is to keep the availability of a continuous potable water supply at reasonable rates," he said.
Braun adds that he would encourage water conservation and search for other water sources.
"Diversification of resources would help keep rates low in times of crisis," Braun said.
When asked what he would bring to the water district, he said, "Experience, asking the right questions, pressing the right person."
"I think it's time [the commissioners] go the extra mile for the people who pay their salary," he said.
Braun is married with four daughters. He has lived in the district for three years.
A computer programmer for Seafirst Bank, Gallagher has been active in watchdogging government for the past eight years. One of his priorities, if elected, is to ensure that commissioners don't abuse district resources. "Incumbent Commissioner Walter Backstrom has shown very poor judgment in his personal use of Water District resources including a violation of state law in one case. As commissioner I would maintain the highest standard of ethics and would not tolerate the abuse of district resources by any commissioner," Gallagher says.
With an MBA from California State University, Gallagher has worked as a cost analyst which he says has given him experience collecting and analyzing data to improve operational and financial efficiency.
His priorities, if elected, include ensuring sufficient water supply to accommodate future growth and maintaining local control over water services.
Gallagher and his wife have lived in Woodinville the past 10 years. He is a member of the Hollywood Hill Association.
Richard J. Llufrio
A telesystems installation technician for a Kirkland communications company, Llufrio hopes to bring greater public awareness to water conservation efforts if elected commissioner.
Llufrio, 30, also wants more discussion between the district and its customers. "There needs to be communication between the public and the government offices to let people know why things are the way they are and keep them up to date on what we are doing to help," Llufrio said. He said working for Weyerhaueser as a logger in the Tacoma city watershed taught him ways to protect water resources.
On his run for office, he said it was time to get involved with the community. "Although I'm young, I hope that doesn't scare folks off," he said.
A graduate of Spanaway High School, Llufrio has lived in the district the past two years. He has done volunteer work for the YMCA as well as having coached and refereed youth basketball.
The water district serves 40,000 customers through nearly 11,800 hookups in a 40 square-mile area from the King-Snohomish County line south to N.E. 124th St. and from Kingsgate east to the Snoqualmie River.