2010-11-04 / Front Page

Steinhardt knocks Smith off local water board

Concerns over employee salaries and benefits resonate with voters
By Sylvie Belmond belmond@theacorn.com

Challenger Barry Steinhardt surprised incumbent Jeff Smith with a 15 percent margin of victory in Tuesday’s contest to represents the Las Virgenes Municipal Water agency’s 5th Division, which covers most of Agoura Hills.

A total of 3,817 voters participated in the election. Nearly 58 percent of the electorate backed the newcomer. Smith got 42 percent

During the race the candidates traded charges of campaign sign violations and battled over the issue of water district salaries and

pensions.

Steinhardt, a 53-year-old owner of a financial consulting firm in Agoura Hills, campaigned on breaking up the status quo and redirecting fiscal policy at the local water agency.

“I want to thank all the people who participated and helped in this election, without their help this would never have happened,” Steinhardt said.

Agoura Hills Councilmember Denis Weber, a longtime friend, said Steinhardt will serve the constituents well.

“He’s a fiscal conservative and he understands the issues that local municipalities and water boards face. I’m very happy he won,” Weber said.

The Las Virgenes district provides potable water, wastewater treatment, recycled water and biosolids composting to more than 65,000 residents in Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Westlake Village, Hidden Hills and some unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

Three of the five district directors were up for reelection Tuesday, but incumbents Glen Peterson and Lee Renger ran unopposed.

Smith, who was appointed to the board in 2007, lost in his first reelection bid.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed in the loss. We worked hard, walked the district house by house three times during this campaign,” Smith said, adding that he may vie for the post again in the future.

“I enjoyed my term on the board. I think it suits my experience well and I can be a contributor again,” he said.

Steinhardt will start his term in January. He plans to join board members Joe Bowman and Charles Caspary to create a new majority on the board of directors that favors holding the line on water rates and employee benefits.

“For many years I was fed up at what the district was doing with our money,” he said.

In a last minute battle to earn votes Tuesday the two Agoura candidates tussled over the placement of campaign signs.

According to Steinhardt, Smith violated county election rules when he posted signage on a vehicle parked within 100 feet of a polling station. The challenger called the L.A. County registrar’s office to inform them about the problem and then attached a large handmade placard on Smith’s vehicle stating that his sign was illegal.

The move exasperated Smith, who immediately filed a report with authorities stating that Steinhardt vandalized the truck when he glued the sign onto it.

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