La Plata County’s representative on the Southwestern Water Conservation District board was appointed board president on Tuesday, and the Dolores County representative will serve as vice president.
Bob Wolff, a Southwestern board director representing La Plata County since 2010, replaced outgoing board member John Porter of Montezuma County as president.
Dolores County representative Doug Stowe was appointed to serve as vice president in place of outgoing board member Steve Fearn.
Both Fearn and Porter were voted off the board by their respective counties in recent months, which is a cumulative 48 years of institutional knowledge no longer on the board, Wolff said.
Southwestern Water Conservation District board directors can serve an unlimited number of three-year terms. They’re selected by their respective counties, and appointments are staggered.
Porter’s term expired this year, and a vote was due to either replace or retain him.
But Fearn’s ousting was untimely, a year ahead of schedule. That prompted a unanimous board decision on Tuesday to draft a letter to county commissioners, reminding them of the importance of allowing directors to complete their three-year terms.
Dolores Water Conservancy District Director Don Schwindt replaced Porter as Montezuma County’s representation, and Lake Durango Water Authority General Manager Charlie Smith replaced Fearn in San Juan County. Both have extensive experience in water management.
Water board members said mid-term replacements can be disruptive of board business.
“When you appoint new members out of step, it can adversely affect leadership,” Wolff said. “In this case, it’s fortunate because Don (Schwindt) and Charlie (Smith) have a lot of water knowledge but sometimes you get members who are brand new to this.”
San Juan County Attorney Paul Sunderland said in a previous interview that commissioners chose to replace Fearn with Smith because the commission had concerns about Fearn’s mining interests and did not think Fearn shares the county’s interest in supporting recreational water uses.
Wolff, a developer who was a county planning commissioner and served on the Durango comprehensive plan advisory committee in the late 1990s, said he can serve well as Southwestern’s board president because of his years leading the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District, an entity that manages the waters of the Animas and La Plata rivers.
“Animas-La Plata has given me a lot of practice,” he said.