Name: Katy Foulkes
Office: Former mayor of Piedmont and current member of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District board representing Piedmont along with Orinda, Moraga and El Sobrante and portions of Oakland, Pinole and Richmond.
Did serving as mayor help prepare you for your tenure on EBMUD?
At the City Council you are creating policy. It helped in that way, but it did not help my understanding of water. My first year with EBMUD was like going back to college. I spent 50 to 60 hours a week studying the issues, the background.
Has a lot changed since those days?
The technology, but also things like federal regulations. There are federal regulations regarding contaminants that 30 years ago we didn’t know about. But the Pardee Dam is essentially running just as it did 80 years ago. It’s amazing how smart engineers were then. And while we began treating water, today we are also producing energy.
Before I ran for council, all cities had been mandated to stop dumping into the Bay. That meant fixing up the sewer lines. We already had a sewer service charge on property taxes. We increased the amount so we could build up enough to repair the storm sewers.
How did the storm sewers become so damaged?
There are natural cracks because we have a lot of trees in Piedmont and the roots seek water. And earthquakes will create cracks in the pipes. If you have leaky sanitation systems we get overwhelmed at the water treatment plant, and that’s when you get spills into the Bay of partially treated or untreated water.
EBMUD asked Piedmont to impose the before Emeryville, Oakland, El Cerrito, Kensington and Richmond Annex. Why?
We thought we would start with a relatively small, well-run city to iron out the difficulties before we go system-wide.
Did you plan on a service career involving science and technology?
No, I was an English major at Cal! My older sister says, if you can read, you can do anything. It took me a lot of reading.
What was your experience growing up in Piedmont? Has it changed, and how?
Piedmont is a wonderful place. It was much more provincial and old-fashioned then. I was one of seven kids. This was not a town with a lot of large, large families. When my parents moved out I thought, “Well, I’ll never be back.” My husband and I bought our first house in Oakland. But when our kids got to be school age we moved back to Piedmont. A lot of Berkeley liberals who believe in public education had moved to Piedmont and the schools were very good. Today, you have a whole mix of people. It makes it wonderful. It used to be 90 percent Republican; today the majority is Democratic.
Will you continue to serve on the EBMUD board for the foreseeable future?
No, I will have served for 20 years when I finish this term, and I won’t run again. I have fairly strong feelings that after a while there needs to be a change.