Lois Henry

Tuesday, Sep 24 2013 09:00 PM

LOIS HENRY: Lois talks to Lois, and water is on their agenda

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    Californian columnist Lois Henry

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    By Photo courtesy of Henry family

    Lois Henry and her dog, Lizzy. This Lois Henry shares an interest with Californian columnist Lois Henry in both dogs and water issues.

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    By Photo courtesy of Melodye Serino

    Lois Henry, Lompico County Water District chairwoman, wins an award for good stewardship.

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By Lois Henry

So, I was scrolling through the Department of Water Resources' aggregation of statewide water news (oh, don't act like that's weird), when -- BAM -- there I was, Lois Henry.

I'd won some statewide award.

Related Info

Lois Henry appears on "First Look with Scott Cox" every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. The show is also broadcast live on www.bakersfield.com. You can get your two cents in by calling 842-KERN.

And I was from Lompico.

First question: Where the heck is Lompico?

I clicked on the link and, turns out there's another Lois Henry right here in California. And she's into water. The eerie similarities don't stop there. Read on.

The award, by the way, was from the California Special District Association for Henry's stewardship of a small, struggling water agency in Lompico, which is near Santa Cruz.

A few more clicks and I learned Lompico Lois is far more than just a board member who shows up on time.

Since winning office in 2008 she wrestled the Lompico County Water District into fiscal stability and public transparency.

A Lois Henry who cares about water and government accountability?

I had to find out more about this lady.

Luckily, she's also a good sport who found our similar names and quirks as fun as I did.

She said she was surprised and flattered by the recent award. But also a little perplexed by one official's description of her as "charmingly eloquent."

"Oh, I loved that. Charmingly eloquent?" she said.

She was quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel as saying the district would be in "deep doo doo," if its budget took another hit.

More like "everyday, whatever," she said of her style.

It's like we could be twins. (OK, if twins were ages 49 and 74.)

"I like math," she further told me.

Errk. Sorry, Lompico Lois, that's where I get off the bus.

Math and I aren't exactly simpatico. That's not to say it doesn't come in handy.

For Lompico Lois, it certainly helped in her nearly 30 years as CEO of the Watsonville Federal Credit Union. Which, in turn, undoubtedly helped her unravel some wicked tricky accounting at the Lompico water district.

Such as, district staffers writing checks and sticking them in a safe. The general manager would tell the board the district had $8,000 or $9,000 in the bank.

"Yeah, but he wasn't telling the board about the $40,000 worth of checks in the safe," Lompico Lois said.

I could swear I sensed her rolling her eyes at the memory.

That was five years ago. Now Lompico is adhering to real accounting practices and its last budget even had a small reserve.

After winning reelection in 2012, Lois has been focused on the possibility of consolidating the tiny, 495-connection Lompico district with the larger San Lorenzo Valley Water District. (Now might be a good time to mention that I also am a director for a tiny water board and we also are trying to merge with a bigger fish. Freaky!)

But things are moving slowly in Lompico. The district can't afford to bring an old treatment plant back on line and one of its 100,000-gallon tanks, made of redwood, is on the verge of falling apart.

The district has raised its rates and still can't bring in enough money to fix all that needs fixing.

Meanwhile, she fears, no one is really paying attention.

"People just turn on the tap and here comes the water and they think everything's hunky dory, and it's not," she said. "It's kind of scary."

Man, it's almost like I said all that myself. Wait, I HAVE said all that myself.

See? Eerie.

Not only that, she's a dog lover. She has one while I have, well, more than one.

Then she turned the tables on me.

She wanted to know if I was named for anyone in my family. Yes, my mother's Aunt Lois. Wouldn't you know, Lompico Lois had an Aunt Lois as well.

We both commiserated about how people can't seem to spell Lois without adding a "U" or, in some cases an "E."

"Has anyone ever called you LoAss?" she wondered. Apparently, a competitor's relative had taken to calling her that during her first election.

Her supporters fired right back with bumper stickers that read "Lompicans for LoAss."

Ha! Thick skin and a sense of humor. Love it.

"Well I am only five-one, or at least I used to be," she said. "So I guess it is lower to the ground."

At a towering five-feet, two inches, I can relate.

She also asked whether I liked my name.

The few other Loises she had met along the way always hated the name. But Lompico Lois hadn't.

"I always related it to being Superman's girlfriend," she said.

Lois is OK, I said. It's never bothered me, though it has always seemed rather old-fashioned.

"I was thinking exactly the same thing -- old fashioned -- just as you said it!" she told me.

I'm telling you, we had a serious Lois Henry connection.

Now, if only she could mind meld me some of her mad math skills.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail lhenry@bakersfield.com

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