Meet YLPer Marie Touitou

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

This week it’s Marie Touitou, a 20-year YLP resident and community leader extraordinaire. Since moving here from the Bay Area with her husband, Rudy, she has plunged into community affairs, from Ladies of the Lakes, Garden Club, Yosemite Lakes Community Church, and helping to save the water company from financial straits to serving on the Yosemite Lakes Owners’ Association board as director and president, and most recently as the YLOA annual election inspector, member of the Governing Documents and Policies Committee, and chair of the Trails and Recreation Committee. She loves YLP with a passion and shares that with all.

Tell us about where you were born and grew up.

I was born in Seattle and my first home was a cabin in the mountains. It was a one-room cabin. There was my mom, my dad and my older brother, 3, and I was six weeks old when we moved up there. My dad built a two-room extension on it out of logs. So, I actually lived in a log cabin, my first four years.

Marie Touitou

The story goes that we had a such a bad blizzard, it buried the cabin and my dad was in town. I think at the time he worked at Boeing. He came up on the weekends. And so there were three of us. Mom put me and my younger brother on the toboggan. She had to haul us down to the train a mile-and-a-half through this horrible snow. And she said, I’m not living another winter up there. So we moved into Seattle.

So I was potty trained in an outhouse. Our only amenity was my dad ran a water line. We had gravity-fed water from the creek. We had a wood stove. This was south of Stampede Pass. The creek was Green Canyon Creek and it fed into the Green River. Rooster Comb Mountain was above us.

The creek never ran dry. Our refrigerator was a garbage can in the creek with a big rock on top to keep the bears out of it.

After we moved into town, we used it as a summer cabin. So my memories of it, of course, don’t extend back to when I actually lived there but I certainly have many, many memories of the cabin until I was 12.

Tell us about your parents.

My dad was a journalist. During the war he worked for the Seattle physics laboratory. They were part of that project of the atomic bomb down in the South Pacific. My dad did something in the way of Journalism and, and then he went to work for Boeing as a technical writer to write to be able to interpret drawings for the average laborer.

So then he decided he wanted to be a writer and he needed to do something. So he went to work for the post office, so that would save his brain for his writing, but he never did do any writing. He was very, very talented but was never published.

His name was Theo Smid. Smid was my maiden name. It’s Czech. I’m half Czech, yes.

My mom had an interesting background. She’s from an Oregon pioneer family, her great-grandfather I think it was came across the plains in a covered wagon in 1848. The year that the Oregon Trail got opened up along the Columbia River and they settled in Clatsop County Oregon. And there’s a town up there named after him, Gearhart. The family had come across from Germany in 17-something.

Unfortunately, my mom’s mother died when my mom was only 11 years old and she got pneumonia. She was a concert singer. And so then her father married his wife’s friend to raise his two daughters and then he got cancer and died when my mom was 14.

So my mom, she was very precocious. She’s very smart. She graduated from high school early. She went to college. On her own, she got a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. She wanted to get a PhD. She would have been a lawyer. She was studying speech. She was the debate champion for the University of Washington for several years. Yeah, but women weren’t lawyers. So she became a high school teacher.

She taught English and when we moved to California, she started teaching at Berkeley (High) and my dad had an office in the post office. I don’t remember what he did, exactly.

This was the two room log extension my dad built onto the original one room cabin. From left, Mom, me, my older brother Philip, and Dad.

Tell us about your brothers.

I had an older brother, three years older and I have a brother that’s a year younger than me. Well, my older brother passed away. My younger brother is not doing so well, physically. They both were in the service. My older brother was in the Army. He was in Germany in the Berlin airlift time. (My younger brother) was in the Navy. He became a machinist and when he got out, he worked for Alameda Naval Air Station until it was closed. And then, he became a bridge tender for the one of those bridges down in Alameda. He still lives up in San Leandro.

What were your memories as a teen-ager?

We moved to California when I was 12. My dad said he was going to rust. My father was from St. Louis. My mother was born and raised in Seattle. They met in New York City before World War II. They eventually came back out to Seattle and my dad didn’t like the rain. So we moved to California.

We thought we were going to the promised land. I immediately adapted to the heat of California. It is in my bones to like the heat. I now have osteoarthritis and the heat is really good for me.

Well, my parents were not real happy with each other. So we moved around a lot trying to satisfy whatever was going on with my parents. So, I went to two junior highs and three high schools. We first lived in Oakland Hills above Lake Merritt. Then we moved out to Walnut Creek. And then we moved to San Francisco out by the ocean, where you never saw the sun in the summertime, which I didn’t like. I lived there two years, my parents split up and we moved to Berkeley. All this time, my parents still had the same jobs until my father retired. He took a medical leave for whatever reason and he went back to St. Louis and my mom stayed on teaching.

I was 17. And so it was just my mom and my younger brother and me in an apartment in Berkeley. And then we moved to a flat something, a little bigger.

The property was 106 acres. I loved Winnie the Pooh stories with its 100 acre wood.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a dentist because I was blessed with really good hands. I could make things, I could play the piano, I could do anything. I like working with my hands and but my best subject in school was biology. And I like being with people as well. I mean, I wasn’t a recluse and so dentistry seemed to be a good fit for me. Unfortunately, women were not allowed in most dental schools. When I approached my own dentist who was on the staff of the dental school in San Francisco to be my sponsor, he laughed at me. He just laughed at me and he said, you need to be a hygienist. Then you can be a wife and mother. You can’t take the seat of a man who has to support a family.

So I graduated from high school in 1963, went to U.C. Berkeley, and I became the best dental hygienist I could be. Because my parents split up, I had no funds. I couldn’t go on to U.C. San Francisco. I couldn’t afford it. So fortunately, they’d opened up a program in a community college. I got very fortunate because I could afford that. I did really well. I always did well in school and I had a job. I started out at a dollar an hour. I worked in a men’s clothing store.I did live at home, but I had to pay my way through school.

What’s it like to be a hygienist?

Well, a hygienist is basically what people think of, a person who cleans teeth and I was good at that. Okay, but I I also was very fortunate that some of the dentists I work for allowed me a lot of freedom. What we were allowed to do got expanded. I went to school and learned to give shots. I learned to give nitrous oxide and what have you? But I also learned a lot about what the dentist knows except for the actual physical act of doing fillings extractions, and so on. Treatment planning was a big thing for me because it’s integrated with how their gums are as well as the status of the teeth. And so I I did a lot of helping the dentist with treatment planning and trying to convince the patient what they needed. And I really liked teaching the patient home care because that’s the real key to keeping teeth.

How has dentistry changed?

Oh, a tremendous difference, an Improvement (in how people care for their teeth). But not only that, dentistry has improved tremendously. When I started, if you had an abscessed back tooth, it was extracted. There were only root canals for front teeth.

When I retired 20 years ago, it was very rare to see an adult person who had never had their teeth cleaned, whereas in the early years. I saw it all the time. When I started in dentistry, there was no dental insurance, except for the longshoremen in San Francisco. That’s the first dental insurance, and then Teamsters got dental insurance, and eventually, most everybody who worked, and insurance made a big difference in people, taking care of their teeth and being able to afford to go to the dentist.

Rudy at the wheel of my Ford Mustang, which I bought and have owned and driven since 1966.

Tell us about your kids and meeting Rudy

I got married really young and I had two kids. I had my first one right after I passed my state boards. I lived in Fairfield. And so I had two kids and I had a stepson that lived with us for a number of years as well. I eventually got divorced.

My daughter’s my oldest. She started kindergarten and I was a room mother. I was team mother for my son’s soccer teams. I was band parent for my daughter’s band and, and so on, I was always involved like that.

Donna and John are now both in their 50s. She is a mechanical engineer who specializes in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. She is the chief mechanical engineer for a company that makes very large buildings and does all kinds of equipment upgrades for the aerospace and food service industries. She lives in Mission Viejo and works for the Austin Company.

My son is an IT person. I can’t talk to you about it because he speaks a different language from me. He lives in Gilroy and he actually works from home. He works for a medical device company in Sunnyvale. They developed something for Covid testing.

(Rudy Touitou and I) lived in Livermore. We were almost neighbors. We had friends that were neighbors.

So we got married in 1998 and we’ve been married it, you know, 20-something years. My husband had some medical issues and decided since his company was moving, we would have to move for him to stay working there. He didn’t want to be looking for another job, so we ended up retiring and that’s how we ended up here. I felt like I’d come home. Remember, I grew up in a mountain cabin.

I don’t like cities at all. I like the mountains. I like the open spaces. It was a leap of faith for my husband to move here, though. Because he was a city person.

He has three kids and together we have six grandchildren now. The oldest is 23, graduated from college last year and the youngest is an infant.

What brought you both to YLP?

(They took a cross-country RV trip and looked at property in Texas, but Marie didn’t want to leave California) And when we came home, we were telling our family about it and his son said, why don’t you check out Coarsegold? He used to be a driver for Safeway and Von’s in Oakhurst was on his route. And there were friends of his that we had met who had bought a house here for their retirement.

So we went home that day and I looked it up online. First thing I did was I looked to see if Kaiser (Permanente) was here. I discovered we had Kaiser here and so that was good. And so then I looked at real estate online and I’m going, Wow, look at this. My house was on the list. I go, you gotta come and look at this house. Yeah, that’s how it happened. That was on a Saturday and Monday we packed the RV and we came out here and stayed in Oakhurst and looked at houses.

It was a good choice. I can sit at my kitchen table and I can see Shuteye Mountain. I don’t even have to go outside.

So what happened after you moved here?

My neighbor across the street saw that we had hauled up a whole trailer load of potted plants. She knew that I was interested in gardening. So she came over and invited me to church. She invited me to Ladies of the Lakes. She invited me to the Garden Club. And I’ve been involved ever since. She doesn’t live here anymore. It was Clarice Griffin. She’s who I hiked with, I hiked all over this place with Clarice. It was with her that we started the trails committee in the Ladies of the Lakes. Then we turned it over to the association. The trail up on Revis and the trail around the lake were the only trails we had. We tramped around and decided where we wanted trails to be.

Eventually when Michael Neveu became the general manager, he started having maintenance work on the trails around the lake. I think it was around 2006 that the association created a trails committee. And eventually they made it into Trails and Recreation but they started a trails committee and it was when Al Clark was on the board that we got the trail up on the upper loop of the Blue Heron built and that was the extent of what was done until I got on.

We started working on the Stagecoach Trail —  we didn’t call it that at that time —  but the Long Hollow Green Belt when Denis (Ciccarelli) was in charge of the Trails and Recreation committee. Then I got on the board and I took over the trails committee when I got on.

Marie and fellow hikers on the trail in spring.

What do you regard as your biggest accomplishments with YLP?

My biggest accomplishment is the Stagecoach Trail and and Jim’s Loop and what you’ve done on the website with the Trails and Recreation page. I’m very, very pleased with that. I’m hoping to live long enough to see all of our trails connected. And my other biggest accomplishment was, when I was president of the board hiring Jonathan. Yeah, that was a real difficult time, but we were simultaneously looking into outside management as well as hiring our own general manager. We did both of those at the same time. I discovered that our own general manager was a much better fit for our community than getting an outside management company, and I’m very pleased with Jonathan’s work. We have a good plan. I am really pleased that he has tackled this upgrade of our aging infrastructure. It’s not something that can be done overnight. It’s a long-term project.

What do you see your role as moving forward?

 I love it here. I absolutely love it here. I’m blessed with being able to, you know, be able to still think pretty well and I’m organized. And I like to be able to contribute, to help. Solve issues. I have a body of knowledge of what’s happened in the past. And through saving my papers and having them be organized, that I can put my finger on. So like when somebody calls or sends me an email says, do you remember this? I can send it off and say, yeah, I have it.

I really want our park to be not a pristine jewel. I’m not looking into that, but a wonderful place to live. I don’t like disharmony. And when people talk with each other, I try to put out fires. When people are misinformed, I try to do that because generally speaking at least they think that they are doing the right thing, but they may be misguided. Are they misinformed? I’m I hate rumors. Absolutely hate rumors. So once in a while, I try to put down a rumor when I know the actual fact, but I’d like to stay involved. As long as I can. I really would like to but I don’t have a desire to be a boss. I’d much rather just be a facilitator, keep things going smoothly.

The focus has been so much more on membership involvement than what we used to have and getting the information to the people. I just wish more people would vote.

What’s your opinion about the value of volunteering?

Not everybody has it in their heart. But if you have it in your heart, do it. It is so rewarding to volunteer. It comes back to you tenfold yourself. A lot of people think they shouldn’t do any kind of work unless they get paid for it, but I’ve been doing volunteer work since I was a kid, so I it’s part of me. This is kind of what makes the place run, really.

Anything else you’d like to say to fellow YLPers?

Oh, one more thing. I’ve told my doctor that I want to still be hiking when I’m 90. I want to at least be able to walk around the lake when I’m 90 years old. I encourage everybody to get out there and use the trails.

Meet YLPer Marty Pol

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

This week it’s Marty Pol, longtime manager of the Fairway Cafe and wife of chef David Pol. She loves her job, her staff and all the people the cafe serves every day of the week. She’s especially enthused about the cafe’s recent renovation and improvements, and invites everyone to come out and see them and enjoy a mouth-watering meal. You don’t even have to play golf!

Tell us about your life growing up.

Well, I’m local. Yeah, I grew up in O’Neal’s, on the San Joaquin Experimental Range, which is on 41. My dad was in the Forest Service.

So I went to the local school, Spring Valley and Sierra High, and then moved back after we got married, after I had kids.

How did you and Dave meet?

We met at a restaurant in Fresno, called Ruben’s. So we met and got married, had a couple kids and we went back up to the mountain. I have two kids, a 30-year-old daughter who has two children and then my son is 27 and he works for the water company here, Jason.

Marty Pol at one of the tables under the cafe pergola.

So, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to just grow up and get married and have kids. Then I ended up doing this.

I was in college and was waitressing and enjoyed it, and it just was flexible and good for having a family. So I kept with it. I was a waitress and then a manager at Coco’s. It was kind of like a fancy Denny’s or a Carrow’s, you know.

What do you like about managing the Fairway Cafe?

Well, the hours are good. The flexibility, the people, all that kind of stuff. It’s hard work, yeah, but I don’t mind that.

What do you like the most about it?

You know, interacting with people. And not sitting still all day. I like the movement. I have had some desk jobs and I just couldn’t stand it.

How did you come to the Fairway Café?

I started waitressing when it was a different manager here at the café. I had another job. I was a church secretary. So I worked and me and the other secretary job-shared. So, I worked three days a week there and two days here. So, just to fill in supplement, whatever, and because I had experience, I became manager.

That was in 2000 that I started here. I don’t know how long I was before I became manager, you know, five years maybe . There were maybe two or three managers before I became the manager.

So did you ever want to do something besides the café, like the Blue Heron?

 I fill in down there, but I’d rather work here.

What are some of the memorable moments you’ve had here?

I want to say, my crew is the best crew in the world. There are 12 of us including me.

Have you lost many employees, as other restaurants have during the Covid-19 era?

We lost one employee during the Covid thing. Everyone else came back and he only left because he happened to get you know, a good, great job.

What do you think’s behind the loyalty being shown to you and the cafe?

I don’t know. They’re just great people that work here and we have fun. It’s a fun environment. It’s great hours, you’re off by three o’clock every day. We cover for each other. It’s real flexible. The money is good.

Have there been memorable moments, any crazy incidents?

We’ve had a couple fistfights. Yeah, without alcohol involved. But you know, it’s just kind of the same thing day after day.

We stayed open when it snowed. That was fun. We had a snowman out front and people came and that was kind of good. I have pictures somewhere.

Do you change the menu very often?

There’s a hundred things on there. Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot on the menu, so, you know, we run specials every day and the soup changes and stuff. But yeah, it evolves, things that don’t sell we get rid of, we try new things and stuff. So we have a couple vegetarian options that we used to not have and things like that.

What’s the most popular items? Chicken fried steak and eggs, California omelet, the burgers, the five dollar burger day on Tuesdays, the breakfast burritos all of those we sell a lot of.

When are your busiest days and times?

Tuesdays, Sundays, Saturdays, Friday and today (Labor Day) was super busy because the holidays are good for us.

How’s it different running a café that kind of caters to golfers? Does it make any difference?

I don’t think so. We don’t get a whole lot of business from the golfers. It’s mostly the community. (Golfers) golf and they drink beer and they go home.

There’s been more in the last couple of years. There have been a lot of different golfers. For a long time, it was just the men’s club and nobody else golfed.

So the golf course is getting a lot more business, I believe. And they’ve actually encouraged other people that golf. And so we’ve gotten more business as a result of that as well.

But sometimes we do special things with tournaments and stuff like that.

So what have the recent improvements and renovation meant to you?

It’s been great! It’s been a long time coming and it’s really working out well, so the flow’s a lot better. We have more room to cook, more room to see people. Mainly it’s efficiency and the cooking space.

We increased the cooking space, because they did all that business on four burners, just like at your house for years and years and years. Now it’s six burners and a bigger grill and two fryers.

And the employees love it.

What are some of your hobbies or other interests?

I like to hike. I babysit my grandkids on my two days off. So I’m doing stuff with children and, you know, hang out with friends and stuff .

We like to travel the coast. I’d like to be there right now. We go to Cayucos and Morro Bay. Love it. Nice and quiet and cool.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Just come and see the new place. It’s fun. We’re here. We’ve been open about a month and we’re still getting phone calls: “Oh, we didn’t know you were open.”  

Meet YLPer Doug Dorsey

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

This week it’s Doug Dorsey, a 21-year YLP resident and current YLOA vice president who is an active volunteer and community booster despite a painful back-injury disability. He’s passionate about keeping up YLP’s amenities and making our neighborhoods better for all.

Tell us about your childhood, where you grew up.

I was born in Castro Valley, California, up in the Bay Area, and then my parents moved us to Fremont when I was one year old and that’s where I grew up. And I went to grammar school, junior high and American High School down the street from the house.

We still have friends that we grew up with. We’ve been friends for 50 years or more that are like family now, but, you know, I think we grew up in the right time where we could go run the neighborhoods and have fun. And you know, “just be back before the street lights come on.” You know, we didn’t have all the worries (they now do) in the East Bay.

Doug Dorsey at the clubhouse.

What did you want to tell us about your family?

There was actually six of us. There was a set of twins first, one passed way at birth, the other one lived three days. Then I have my oldest sister who lives in Fresno now. Then my next sister… she lives in Modesto. And then there was me. And then, there was another one after me, who was three months premature, also who didn’t make it.

When I moved here in 2000, my parents moved to Turlock to be in the middle of us kids, in 2001. So we kind of all migrated east a little bit so we could be close. My mom passed away a year and a half ago. So it’s just my dad.

My dad worked for Stella D’oro Biscuit Company. He delivered cookies to the grocery stores and then my mom when we were little, she worked at the cafeteria, the school that that we went to. And then she went to work for a department store and then she was a seamstress at a drapery manufacturer, in San Leandro. And then they retired.

I started out my career working for Lucky grocery stores in the Bay Area. And then when we moved here, I actually commuted for a year back to the Bay Area to work. And then I quit there and then got a job with Clark Pest Control and their termite division doing construction work.

I graduated from high school in ‘81. I started at the grocery store in my junior year in school, and then I was there for almost 22 years. I was stocking shelves. I was working night crew for 20 of those years. I started off as a bagger and then made checker and then went into night crew and was on night crew for 20 years. I was in charge at night when we went 24 hours.

My wife, Lori, and I went to school together. She was in my sister’s class — my oldest sister’s class, and we also worked together and that’s where we met up. Been together 34 years.

She has a daughter from a previous marriage and then we have our son together, Michael. Our daughter lives now in Georgia, and my son lives with my dad in Turlock and works from home.

When did you come to YLP?

Well, my uncle has 11 acres over by Bass Lake and we were always coming up here for vacations and everything and helping him out on his property and we liked it so much that our son was just getting out of grammar school and in the middle school.

So me and the wife talked and we’re like, okay, if we’re going to move, we’re going to move now because I didn’t want to move my son during his junior high or high school years. And so she quit because she had neck surgery. And she didn’t go back to work after that.

Then while I was working, she came up here and was looking for a place and found here. And I commuted back and forth to the Bay Area. The first year we were here and then that got a little tiresome and then I got a job at Clark Pest Control in Merced.

Then there was about six months that there just wasn’t a job that I wanted to do. So, I left there and went to work for Home Depot down in Fresno on their freight team and then became night supervisor and then, I transferred over to the Madera store when it opened up and ran that at night. And then I left the store and went out to Home Depot’s sister company, driving truck and then I drove truck for seven years.

I got injured in 2009. I hurt my back. There wasn’t an actual day that I got injured. It was just more of a progression over the years because it’s hereditary. My dad has the same issue. My sister has the same issue. So it just finally, like the doctor explained to me, you know, you got a hundred thousand miles warranty on your back, and you put 300,000 miles on it. It just wore out. I have five bad discs, I have degenerative disc syndrome. Yes, I’m a hundred percent disabled.

Tell me about your dog, Georgia.

I’ve had a couple of dogs before Georgia. I’m training her to be my service dog. I’ve always had a dog in my life. Well, our first one was a lab mix when I was probably six, seven years old and then we had another one of her puppies, we kept. And then when those two passed away, I actually got me a golden retriever.

Me and my wife were actually dating at the time. When we lived in Tracy, we had a Weimaraner and then we had two Weimaraners up here. And then now we have Georgia, who is a Belgian Malinois.

I’ve had Georgia three years. We got her when she was 13 weeks old. I’m training her to be a service dog. She will be able to help me further down the road when I’m not going to be able to bend over and pick things up and bring things to me and help me in that manner.

Seems like you do a lot for YLP despite your disability.

Thank you, it’s very painful, but I’m in pain if I sit at home or I’m in pain if I’m out doing things and I’m not the type of person that’s ever been one to sit. So I just do what I can, I try to stay as active as I can, just because I don’t want my situation to control me. I would like to be able to control it. I’ve been more active lately in volunteering and stuff.

Have you always had an interest in YLP and how it was run?

Yes. My wife and my son, actually, both worked for the association for 12 years. My wife was the liaison to the board. And so I kind of stayed out of everything because I didn’t want no conflict of interest. I didn’t want nothing to come back on her, you know, with her job or anything. So once she left the association, I was able to come in and run for the board and help the community. The next election after she left, I ran for the board. I’m going into my third year right now.

My son started off as a dishwasher when he was in high school and then he worked his way up to a bartender and he worked his way through college. He graduated from Fresno State three years ago with a degree in geomatic engineering. He works for an engineering company out of the Bay Area, BKF engineering.

Why did you run for the board?

This last time, there were some things I wanted to see if I could, you know, improve on and change, the pool for one. I just could not understand why we had an amenity that we could only use three months out of the year because it was only open basically when the kids are out of school.

Well, there was a lot of seniors and a lot of adults that use the pool for therapy reasons and, and, you know, that’s their relaxation and stuff.

So I just found out what the process was and found out it was covered under the Trails and Rec Committee. So I started working with Marie and and Jonathan. I bug Jonathan every single day. I met him at the front door and we talked every day about getting the pool open longer and stuff and it finally came to fruition. And so now the least the hot tub is open all year round. The pool is open a couple months longer and longer hours. So I think more people are getting enjoyment out of it.

So, I’m not on the Trails and Rec Committee anymore. I moved on to the Engineering Committee, the ECC Committee, the Golf Committee, keeping busy. I’m vice president now.

What are your priorities?

I really want to focus on the amenities. You know, I don’t think we should ever lose an amenity and I’ll fight as hard as I can to keep every single amenity and keep them up and running. And then just be very wise in how we spend our money, you know, and make the community better for everybody.

How do you stand on some of the issues that have been discussed a lot like the impact of social media and keeping a cap on the dues.

Well, I won’t say I will never raise dues, I’ll work hard at keeping them to the least amount, you know, if we have to raise them. Because as a board member our fiduciary duty is to keep the association up and running.  I mean when the cost of living goes up and gas goes up and everything else goes up. I mean, we can’t run the place on 1970 incomes, you know.

We’ve let things slide in the past and now we’re having to pay the consequences for that in the maintenance of everything, and if we would have just kept our dues increased a little bit each time, we could have maintained all those issues and we wouldn’t be in the position we are in.

So in the social media thing, I think it hurts the association more than it helps the association because once the wrong information gets out there and people react to it, you know, they don’t want to change their mind. They think that’s the correct information. And then it just causes more headache and more work for the employees and the board.

And, you know I think people, if they have a question, come to our board, our meetings and ask the question and get the information directly from us.

Doug with Yosemite High senior Jadyn Carter earlier this year after helping Jadyn finish his senior project, revitalizing YLP’s horseshoe pits next to Blue Heron Lake.

So, how important is volunteering?

I think volunteering for the association is important because we all own it. So you’re only helping yourself, you know what I mean? It just makes me feel good, you know, going back to my days working in the grocery store, stocking the shelves at night. You’d leave the aisle in the morning. It looked perfect. You come in that night. It’s like just destroyed. You start all over.

I volunteered to help build the pizza kitchen. It’s such a good feeling to see that there is something there that’s going to last for years. And everybody in the community gets to enjoy it. It makes you feel good. And the more you can do that for your community, the better everybody is.

This place would be so much happier, and that’s just what we want. Yeah. I mean, we moved up here to God’s country to enjoy it. Let’s not argue about it. Let’s just work together and make it a beautiful place to live.

I’ve always been one just to help anybody who needed help, my whole life, you know If I see somebody who’s broke down on the side of the road, you know, I stop and ask if they need help. I mean, I also helped redo the bar in the clubhouse, I did a senior project with Jadyn Carter. We redid the horseshoe pits. Even volunteering weed whacking around the lake, you know, to help the trail stay open. I volunteer to answer phones to help out in the office since they’ve been so short-handed over the last couple months.

And I made the cornhole boards so we can have an activity here at the clubhouse. I would love to start a league like on Thursday nights and then have like a once-a-month tournament on a Saturday and Sunday, you know, just to get people out and enjoy the outdoors.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I make time for fishing. I love going shooting, I go to the range. So yeah, as a matter of fact, Sue Beck, may she rest in peace, had just gotten me into sporting clays over at Sun Mountain Gun Range. Every time we went, we had a blast.

Where do you go fishing?

Bass Lake, Shaver Lake, Blackhawk. My dad just bought a pontoon boat for the family. He just turned 80. So I’m trying to keep him out on the water as much as I can, you know, so he can enjoy what time he has left. Yeah, I grew up fishing with my dad sitting on the bank of the delta in Antioch, freezing our butts off trying to catch stripers.

What would you like to see happen here in the coming years?

Obviously, I guess (improving) the pool. We are starting on the roads project. I think that’s a real big issue. I know that the following year would be the Equestrian Center. We need to bring that up for the safety for the horses and you know, the enjoyment of the riders and stuff like that. I think we should just try to keep beautifying the place and keep it up and running.

Meet YLPer Randy Sacks

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

This week it’s Randy Sacks, a newly appointed member of the YLOA Board of Directors who moved to YLP from the Bay Area in 2017, looking for someplace more peaceful and closer to the mountains.

Tell us about where you grew up and what it was like.

Well you know, I’ve been in California all my life. I was born in Palo Alto (he’s now 66) and lived there until I was, I think about 5, and then my parents moved us to Los Altos Hills.

I went to high school in Palo Alto, College in Los Altos.

New YLOA Director Randy Sacks

I grew up in a family of four kids. I’m the third. So I had an older brother and older sister and a younger brother and all of us are still close. My parents are actually still alive, getting up there in years.

My father spent most of his career in medical research, his early career was in aeronautics and fluid dynamics. But from there he went into blood flow research with Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

My mom was an administrator and she ended up as the director of the Packard Foundation for many years. So she was doing a lot of grant writing and fundraiser type stuff while serving on the board as well.

The Packard Foundation was set up by David Packard initially, one of the founding members of Hewlett-Packard. I think it was Bob Hewlett and Dave Packard. I could remember Dave Packard coming to our house for dinner several times. Both parents were well educated, had successful careers.

My oldest brother currently lives in Sedona, Arizona. My sister is the next oldest, she lives in Portola Valley. My younger brother lives in Seattle.

What was it like growing up in Palo Alto at that time?

There was a whole lot more open space, there really wasn’t any crime. So my parents didn’t have to worry when we took off on the bicycle and go see our friends and stuff. We rode all over the place on mini bikes which have a small gas engine. Not really a motorcycle, but that was awfully fun.

There was a lot of wildlife around, too, so it was interesting to see all the birds and deer and rabbits and all that stuff. Unlike growing up in a city now.

What were your interests as a youngster?

Certainly the mini bikes were a huge interest. The other one was slot cars. I don’t know if you remember those, not many people do anymore but we spent a lot of time at the slot car track and building cars and racing cars and was always interested in that.

But as I got older, you know your interests shift. I never thought I’d be a race car driver or anything. I always kind of figured I’d go to law school but after four years of college, I really didn’t want to do another three.

So I went to Gunn High School. It’s actually in Palo Alto, but I was living in Los Altos at the time and that’s where the district is. From there, I went to Foothill College, which was actually in Los Altos Hills where we lived, and from there to San Jose State.

So what was your area of study?

Originally political science and some pre-law stuff like business law, contract law.

(He earned a bachelor’s degree from San Jose State in political science, then certificates in business administration, business communications and marketing from DeAnza College).

After college, I got a job the summer before I finished at a printing company as a delivery driver and they asked me if I’d be interested in learning how to run a printing press and I said sure. So they taught me, then offered me a job, doing that for substantially more money and I did that for a while and it was okay. But it wasn’t something I was passionate about or anything.

But every time I tried to quit, they ended up throwing more money at me. So I ended up being there a few years. And from there, I went into management and eventually owning a printing company. I’m kind of still doing some of it, commercial printing.

Most of my clients are nonprofits. It used to be tech companies until 2000 and after that things changed and now most of the companies I work with are large nonprofits.

Artisan Printing Co. — I acquired it in 2003. Before that, I was vice president of a printing brokerage. A printing brokerage is people that need printing and these aren’t just like people who want some business cards or something. These are large companies. At the time, my biggest client was Tandem computers, which then was bought by Compaq, computers, which was later bought by HP.

For instance, when I was working with Tandem and Compaq, they had an entire department that produced what’s called collateral. So, they had a team of three, I think graphic artists and then they had six printing buyers. Well, they don’t really want six printing buyers, running out and driving around to print shops and figuring out where they can get the best deal and who’s going to do it. So they’ll contract with a broker in this case that was me. So I was servicing six buyers within the company and I had relationships with a number of printing companies from my years in the business.

So I would take the artwork from the client, figure out who best to perform the work and oversee the work from the beginning through the end and delivery. And then bill them for it and obviously I would mark up what I charge them over my costs. So that’s what a printing broker does.

What kind of area do you service? And what kind of work do you now do?

Because I came from the Bay Area, all of my clients are still in the Bay Area and and I’ll do just about anything that they need from business cards, to books, to fliers. Because I’m dealing with nonprofits, much more of it is appeals for funding, they do mail appeals. They do invitations to events.

So do you have employees?

I take care of it myself at this point, because of all those relationships I formed when I was a broker. It doesn’t make sense for me to have a ton of equipment because the overhead is just too high. So I have relationships with people I trust and have them do the actual printing. I do it all online mostly. Yeah, most of my communications these days are email. I still pick up the phone once in a while but it’s good to have things in writing so you send and receive documents and yes that kind of stuff.

What have been the high points of your career so far?

That’s a tough one. Well, I mean, acquiring the company was a big deal. I think some of the most enjoyable parts of my career were the nine years I spent with the brokerage company. That was a really nice working environment, had a beautiful office, worked with great people, had really good support, which I don’t have so much anymore being that it’s just me.

I had one enormous client that was easily a 50-hour per week job, and that was Compaq. They were the second largest manufacturer of home computers. Compaq had at the time, I think, 22 buildings on their Cupertino campus and I had a key card with 24-hour access to all of them.

Because I had to be, you know, available at a phone call from any one of the buyers. This was from ‘92 to 2002.

Some of the buyers I worked with were really interesting people. In fact I still keep in touch with several of them. One of them after 2000, when things kind of imploded, decided that he wanted to be a sculptor and he now goes to flea markets and garage sales all over the place and collects. He has a good eye for what he can use and what he can’t and makes little sculptures of things like race cars and motorcycles out of the most unbelievable stuff.

What talents do you make use of as a printer?

I’m certainly good as a proofreader. I can spell. I can put together a grammatical sentence although you might not think so from this (laughs). So I have that. I have a good eye for color, which is important in printing to be able to look at a photograph and say the faces are too red, we’ve got to fix that and to know how to fix that. I have to be proficient in a multitude of software programs, one of which are Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator. All of that knowledge has come self-taught. I seem to have an ability to communicate with computers.

Randy and a 2009 Harley Road Glide he rented.

So what brought you to YLP?

I’ve been married and divorced twice. Okay, so I think I should stop trying that for a while, but I had a friend and — let me back up a little bit — so I always wanted to be in a more rural setting. There are great things about the Bay Area. The weather’s amazing. But I was very tired of the traffic. Very tired of the crowds, very tired of the insane cost of living.

And I always wanted to live somewhere a little more peaceful and closer to mountains. So it seemed when the divorce happened in 2016 that seemed like a good time to make a change and I had a friend who had been living in Milpitas and had moved to Oakhurst. And so I called him and I asked him about it and he said, I love it here. He said, why don’t you come up and take a look around. So, I did. And I really liked the area.

(Plus, he’s not far from his children. His son lives in San Ramon and his daughter in Bakersfield. He has two grandchildren.)

So I decided to sell my house in the Bay Area, and look for one around here, here being the Sierra foothills.  I started working with a Realtor and she showed me some properties in YLP…. So every time I came to Coarsegold and YLP it just sort of felt like home and I started looking at houses and I made I made a few offers, didn’t get any of them.

 It seemed like at the time things were starting to move pretty quickly. And I had looked at a house on Lilley Mountain that I really liked but it was more than I wanted to spend. So I kept looking and one evening, I was in the Bay Area and my Realtor called from here. And she said, do you remember the house on Lilley Mountain? And I said sure, she said, are you still interested? And I said, yeah, but not at what they’re asking for it.

She said, okay, well, they already bought another house. They can’t afford the payments on both of them so they asked me to see if you’re interested and see if you’d like to talk and I said, sure have them throw a number out.

So they threw a number out and I was comfortable with it. So I called her back half an hour later and said, let’s do it. And that was that. So I bought a house on Lilley Mountain in early 2017. And I started coming here every weekend…

Then I was able to move here, full-time, and I got to tell you every time I go to the Bay Area, there are things I like but I can’t stand the traffic. I can’t stand the crowds. People aren’t nearly as friendly as they are here. And every time I turn around and start driving back this way, my stress level drops and I just, I feel so much better.

That’s basically why I decided to run for the board is because I love the community. I’ve been accepted into the community. Everybody I’ve met here has been incredibly nice and helpful, so I want to see if I can give something back to the community.

So what are your priorities now that you’re on the board?

So obviously the last couple of elections — and I’ve participated in both of them — the first time, I got trounced, well, not that badly, but the second time, obviously, I was only seven votes away (from winning a seat) as I’m sure everyone is aware.

There’s a huge sentiment in the park about how dues can’t go up anymore. Well, I am not the guy who’s going to tell you that I will never vote to raise your dues — by the way that pledge disqualifies you from board service because your fiduciary responsibility on the board is to oversee and protect the financial health of the association.

But what I bring to the table is a long history of complex negotiations to come up with maybe out-of-the-box solutions that not everyone would think of and I think when we’re faced with a board dues increase, my desire would be to explore every other possibility.

I’m not saying I won’t vote for a dues increase, if it’s warranted and necessary, I certainly will. But a lot of times, I think there may be other possible solutions so that that’s number one.

As far as the fiduciary responsibility, the rest of it is, I just want to continue to improve the park. I think we’re on a great track of getting things back in order after a very long period of neglect that well predates me. Obviously, I want everybody to be able to enjoy this place as much as possible and as much as I do, so if I can help make it a better place to live. I’m all for it.

You have a keen interest in the Neighborhood Watch program here?

So there is an existing Neighborhood Watch program on North Dome and it has been there for years but because the park is so spread out and so huge, my feeling was there need to be more of them because obviously someone on North Dome can’t watch my house on Lilley Mountain if they see something suspicious.

So my desire was to create some additional functional units and that desire came about because when I came here, as I said, I was living in the Bay Area, most of the time. So I would have Amazon packages delivered to my house and they would sit there sometimes for a week. Never had an issue. Nobody ever touched one.

So I just assumed OK there absolutely is no crime here until my security camera picked up a guy walking across my driveway who broke into my car at four o’clock in the morning. That prompted me to look into the Neighborhood Watch program and I knew about it because one of my larger clients for printing was the city of San Jose police department, and I helped them a lot with the program.

So I reached out to Madera County Sheriff’s Office, who connected me to a community service officer named Carena Valdez. And she and I have been working together to try to get something going on Lilley Mountain, and hopefully branch it out to other areas of the park as well.

It’s not only a nice thing to have if you’re going to be out of town for a little while, to have your neighbors kind of keep an eye on your property but it’s also a great way to get to know your neighbors.

So we have an upcoming meeting on the 24th of this month at 6:30 in the clubhouse in person. And we will have representatives from Madera County Sheriff’s Office, from California Highway Patrol. Hopefully from Madera County Code Enforcement and I’m hoping also our own security and it’ll be a great opportunity for people to ask questions about the program and learn what the program is about.

What is your opinion about the social media impact on YLP and YLOA affairs?

Well, if you’ve read my posts, I’ve been largely supportive of the board and certainly the GM. So, the unfounded criticism and accusations without any evidence or reason that rile up other people I guess I’m not a fan of, I don’t like it.

I understand the need for people to be able to vent and talk about anything they want. And social media, obviously, fills a huge portion of that role. It’s a fine line.

As I said, you’re going to see a lot less of me on social media during this next year and certainly I will not comment on anything related to the HOA or board. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion but it’s inappropriate for me to comment on that.

As far as social media. I think I think it’s a double-edged sword and I kind of feel like it has to be because if you institute an enormous set of rules to try and make it Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood you’ve basically destroyed it and the same works the other way.

 It’s kind of the way it is because it’s a necessary evil. So I’m not a huge fan of regulation of social media. I have the ability to not look at something, if I don’t want to. And I wish other people would realize that they do, too.

What is your opinion about the value of volunteering in YLP?

It’s hugely important, especially now, as we are hopefully now getting the end of Covid but it doesn’t look that way. Every business I talk to is having trouble getting employees and there are a lot of valuable services that volunteers can provide. And I think if people have the time and desire to be helpful, it’s a great two-way street, it works both ways, it’s rewarding for the volunteer and also for the people that they’re helping.

It’s my desire to scale back or stop working in about 2 years. And at that time, I will definitely be able to volunteer more time.

What hobbies or outside interests do you have?

I love riding motorcycles. I have one. I very much enjoy skiing. I love to fish. Hiking is a passion of mine, so I do that as often as I can, whenever I have time.

My dog, Rose, a mostly black lab-part shepherd, she’s 2 years old and a ball of energy. So we’ll go up hiking midweek or on the weekends.

I hate to predict the future but at the moment I’m perfectly comfortable. Yeah, there are a lot of good things about living by yourself. One of which is you get to decide what you want to do within the confines of your responsibilities and nobody argues with you when you decide to make a decorating change.

I have a patio out back that looks out over a canyon where there’s only one other house that you can see. And in the evening you can sit out there and watch the sunset and listen to the coyotes howl out in the canyon.  That’s my stress relief mechanism.

Ken Harrington, YSPUC manager

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

This week it’s Ken Harrington, manager and chief operator of the Yosemite Spring Park Utility Co. His is practically the story of YLP itself. Not only is he a 34-year YLP resident and employee, but an expert on YLP’s water system, one of the most complex in California. AND few know the area’s history as well as Ken. Read and learn about this remarkable man who presides over the daily miracle of keeping healthy water flowing to your homes.

Ken at the electrical control panel for just one of the many YSPUC pump stations.

(Interviewed June 23)

Tell us about your early life, where you grew up.

Well, I grew up in the Fresno-Clovis area. I was actually born in San Jose. My father decided to move us over to San Jose because he was chasing a job. And we lived there for about six months. I happened to be born in that six months. Then we came back. I come from a long-rooted history in California. My great-grandparents started the poultry industry in California in the 1800s and worked their way from the Imperial Valley up into the L.A. Basin area and we’re known as the poultry kings down there and then branched out into the Central Valley in late teens and early ‘20s. Pretty much the largest poultry producing ranch in the Central Valley until 1969.

I grew up on a poultry ranch. And it was basically you know you get up in the morning, you do your chores around the ranch, you go to school, you come home, you do your chores around the ranch, you do your homework and then you start your day over. So that’s a kind of learned my work ethic from my grandfather. And it’s just stayed with me.

What did you want to be? And what was the path that you took?

When I was very young I wanted to be a fireman. We were a couple blocks away from a fire station and I used to love to go to the fire station. So back then you’d go to the fire station to get the license for your bicycle. And my license kept falling off my bike and getting lost. So I’d have to go back to the station to get another one. And then they finally told me, you don’t have to lose your license. You can just come by anytime you want. And so I hung out at the fire station.

I actually got to fulfill that dream when I moved here and was on the station here for 21 years. But that that’s what I had wanted to do, you know, as a small child and then when I was in school I was interested in cars and automotive and I started a business doing custom auto body and paint. I was doing mechanic work as well and kept that going.

When I first moved here, I was still doing that work and I was thinking I was building something that I could pass down to my kids, but my kids weren’t interested in it and it was getting tougher to sustain that type of work.

I just kind of got out of it and looked for something that that would not matter what the economy was. (The) Drinking water (business) seemed to be something that wouldn’t matter what the economy is. So I started working here, I actually revived the security program here in the park when I moved here in ‘87 because there was no security, I had had a lot of experience doing that and was able to get the license. So I got the private patrol operations license for the park and revived the security program and did that for about five years. And then they needed some help on the water company. And I went over to temporarily help them and I’m still here.

So initially, I started off by just doing labor — fixing leaks, reading meters, installing meters, doing that type of work.

When I came to YLP, the homeowners’ association had just taken possession of the water company in a lawsuit, two months earlier. The staff that came across with that problem was the staff that had worked for the developer, who was the other half of the lawsuit with the homeowners’ association. So they were adversaries and then all of a sudden they found themselves employed by who they’ve been fighting against. So they were not, you know, they had not made a nice environment for themselves and so they had a lot of animosity.

And so I came to work here, not really realizing that. At first, I was having trouble myself with these guys, not really wanting to go do things. They literally wanted to go mow their lawn and go fishing and do those kind of things while they were on the clock. And that’s just not me.

So, they didn’t want to teach anything to anybody because they were of the mindset that if nobody knows how to do your job, they can never get rid of you because you’re the only one that can do it, right? So I started going to school and learning the job because I wasn’t going to learn anything here from these guys. So if I’m going to do something, I want to do it. Well I want to know the right way and so I started going to school at night for drinking water and started getting in and learning the system.

Those guys quickly started falling off, going away and new hires coming in. And so it was a learn as you go. And I just kept progressing along to where we started hiring a few more staff, you know, new issues, new problems would pop up, and we’d have to address them and started becoming more busy and we hire more people.

I just started progressing up and they eventually asked me if I would just stay full time because I still was a temporary employee and I said, yeah, you know probably a good thing. So then it got to where I was pretty much managing everything out in the field.

They’d hire somebody as a manager and he’d be here for a few months or a year, and then he disappeared and they had asked me to be an interim manager. On the fifth round of that (I said) how about just let me be the manager? So in ‘99, they agreed and let me become the manager.

It doesn’t mean that I still don’t go out in the field and do this work. Because again, we’ve got to wear multiple hats and just roll with the punches. I still do all that maintenance stuff.

Tell us a little bit about your family and how you came to YLP.

Well, we were getting away from the hustle and bustle and everything that’s in town. And even back then, you could see crime rates increasing in Fresno. And I kind of liked the idea of getting into something that had a little more small town feel. My wife (Roxie) on the other hand, really liked the idea of taking an evening, walking over to the grocery store to buy what we were going to have for dinner that night and, you know, and like the neighborhood kind of thing.

So when I saw an ad for a house here in YLP for rent, I had to keep her talking and drive real fast so she didn’t realize how far we were going out of town. We came up in the winter. It had just snowed up here and it was absolutely beautiful. It was in November of ‘87. And of course, spring came and the rattlesnakes came out and she wasn’t thrilled.

Basically she told me after a year, we were going to leave because she couldn’t handle it. But by the time the year was up, she had fallen in love with the place and didn’t want to go back.

The old but still useful external water depth gauge on one of YSPUC’s big tanks. Water depth is now monitored with the SCADA system.

What do now you do for YSPUC? And how does it affect everybody who lives here?

Well, we’re a small water company and regardless of the complexities of this system, the people that work there, any of them have to wear multiple hats. You can’t afford staffing that the big municipalities can afford and so you’ve got to do multiple tasks.

The state has labeled ours as one of the most complex water systems in California. Just because of the way it was designed. In the very beginning there were two different engineers. It was an engineering firm that did the first half of the design, then the original developers went bankrupt. When this went up on the auction block, the new owner hired a completely different engineering firm and wouldn’t let them start over. They had to make their designs work with the other engineer company’s designs. There are a lot of complexities, we’re dealing with a lot of elevation change. Because of that, there’s lots of pieces that have to be addressed.

And until now we’ve never had until what I’m putting in now with the SCADA system, we’ve never had any automation to help us with any of that, to see things without physically going out and looking for them.

What would you like people to know about our water distribution system?

The water that we produce is pulled straight out of the ground and into the pipes. In the valley where a lot of people come from, it’s different, it’s like a giant sponge down there…. and it’s run through big filtering plants and all kinds of different technologies to screen out all of those impurities.

Our waters are like the old fresh mountain spring water, it’s coming right out of the fractures in the rock underground and we don’t have that kind of filtration. And so you’re getting a nice pure water, but it does have some mineral content and it varies depending on where you live in the park.

You couple that with an aged system. They started putting this water system in in 1970. So there’s parts of it that are getting pretty old and it wasn’t put in exactly the best way that it could have been. So it has some problems, you know, with leaks and things.

We’re fixing that with the PRP program, replacing the mains, which is being very effective actually, but you’ve got all these 40, 50, 60 years of minerals that coated inside pipes. And so sometimes a pipe will break and it causes a rush of water and it strips them of those minerals. That’s why you get the discolored water. It’s not a health issue. It’s what they call a water quality issue and aesthetic issue.

So the quality of the water is very good. We test every week. We add chlorine to make sure that it’s safe. And we do that as part of requirements of the federal and state government Safe  Drinking Water Act.

The system is improving, as we replace the mains and service lines. If you look at the straight numbers, it seems like we’re not really having a reduction in the number of leaks. But what we’re having is a reduction in the number of catastrophic main failures. We’re still having service line leaks and things like that, and some of those are getting worse in some of the older areas. But service line leaks don’t cause nearly the damage or lose nearly the amount of water that a catastrophic main failure does.

What are the some of the challenges that you and the water company face?

There are always challenges. We’re in a long-term drought. We were out of the drought for what, one year, year and a half, and then we’re back into it. Droughts are always a concern because as it gets hotter, it gets drier. People want to use more water to keep their landscape that they’ve devoted so much time and energy and money to have. But if it’s also harder to produce that water.

When it rains, the water that soaks in the ground, that’s referred to as local area recharge. So, if you’ve got a shallow well, let’s say you live outside the park and you’ve got a house and you’ve got your own well, it’s probably only a couple hundred feet deep but that’s getting all its water from the rain local area recharge.

I’m drilling our wells down a thousand, 1,200, 1,400 feet deep and pulling water from way down and what we’re getting is glacial melt. That water has been locked up in glaciers for years. It’s got anywhere from a seven- to 10-year time of travel from the time it melts out of the bottom of that glacier and soaks in the ground. In the high country it gets in the fractures and works its way down here.

So we don’t see effects of drought immediately, other than more people using the water and us having to pump more water. Our effects from a drought will show up much later. We could actually be out of the drought for a couple of years when we start seeing effects from it because of that time of travel issue. So I’ve always got to kind of look ahead at what may come down the road.

And — there’s always a contaminant that can change our operation. I had a well running for 10 years that had no uranium, never a trace. All it takes is an earthquake someplace to shift the underground fractures and change the course of the water. And it can take the water away from a well, it can add different water to the path to our well. And I think that’s what happened because all of a sudden we had uranium, that was off the charts and I had to shut the well down and I had it offline.

I was trying to figure out a way to deal with it for about 11 years and then all of a sudden the uranium went away. It could very easily have been because of earthquake activity, but that’s all it takes is a contaminant to get in.

We had a gas station tank leak fuel that got into our water. And two and a half million dollars worth of expense to try and get that out of the drinking water.

Ken pionts to one of the screens for the SCADA system — showing the amount of water in tanks, and amounts going in and out, plus more parameters.

Tell us about this new SCADA system you’re installing. How will it help?

SCADA stands for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. Basically, it’s remote control of all the systems. I can actually bring up my phone on a screen and look at all the sites I have installed right now. I can see them on that screen. I can see what they’re doing. I can see if they’re running or they’re off.

I can set alarms. So that if we have a main break, let’s say we have a main break at 2 a.m. The way we (used to) find out, is somebody gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. They flush the toilet and there’s no water. So then they call and say, “I don’t have any water.” It may have been running for four or five hours and nobody knows because it’s in the middle of the night.

In this case, I can set a flow rate alarm, so if something breaks like that it hits a high flow rate and it sends out an alarm to all of our phones and wakes us up. And so now we can see we got a problem that we get out there and we find it, right? We find out quick and I can set alarms on hundreds of different things. We’ve been taking advantage of that for a while now.

(Ken first started to use SCADA on a few wells as early as 2015, and then expanded it to the rest of the YSPUC system when the YLOA Board of Directors approved funding the expansion.)

I’m hoping to have everything in and fully automated by the beginning to middle of August.

Why are valves and hydrants sometimes opened and so much water released?

We get these little power glitches and power failures around here and sometimes it may just be momentary. It shuts all of our equipment off and the problem is, is we can’t just let them automatically just turn back on. When you first start the well, even if it just shut off for a moment, you have to pump it to the ground because It can stir up this discoloration iron and manganese, that’s down in the well itself. In some of these wells, you may have to pump it to the ground for two or three hours before you can put it back in.

And we’ve got to drive across, you know, this and entire six hundred acres here, getting to everything and restarting it and then driving back around and putting things in when they’re ready. And all of that is very labor intensive. So with this new (SCADA) system, it’ll be able to do all of that automatically. It’ll let us know that something went off and it’ll be able to start itself to the ground first under a set amount of time because we know about how long it takes to run that way. It’ll open and close the valves. Send the water to the open.

Right now, in the summertime it takes anywhere from eight to 10 hours a day for a person to go through and just operate the system, check every well and tune things in and do what they got to do.

When we get done with this system, the data is already going to be collected. They can come and look at these screens in the office, see where everything is. We even have sensors that tell them if they need to go fill chemicals at the chemical drums.

VIDEO of divers cleaning one of the YSPUC tanks in November 2019

Tell me about your employees and how important it is to have a good staff and just what they do they need?

I don’t think people realize the amount of work that every day goes into this water system to keep the water flowing and to fix all the stuff that needs to be fixed, you know, and the breaks and the leaks. And these guys, they work hard. None of this work is easy. It’s all very labor-intensive. It’s all very hard work and it doesn’t matter if it’s, you know, 20 degrees outside or 110 out here. We’ve got to be out there in it and working it.

And we’re out in the middle of the street, you know? And there’s times where people seem to think that we’re just in their way and it can be dangerous out there and I’ve nearly been hit a few times.

How many do you have in your staff?

I’m very understaffed right now. I’ve only got about five of us right now and you normally would have about 11 so I’m less than 50% and so that just means that we all have to do twice as much work because just because we don’t have the staff. But it doesn’t mean that the work stops being there.

(Hiring and training is another factor — pipeline workers require special skills and certifications.)

I mean we’ve got to have certifications and license and you know, it takes time to get that. And so there’s a lot of difficulty in finding people that either have certification or have the desire to become certified and then to try and keep them here. We’re a small system and we can only offer so much and unfortunately, we end up losing good, certified people to municipalities and things (where) people that have larger bank accounts can pay more.

Do you anticipate any water use restrictions coming up?

Well, that’s always a possibility. We (ask people) to keep in the back of their mind that whenever it gets real hot, these heavy triple-digit days. It’s harder and harder to keep this water available. People tend to use a lot more water when it gets real hot and I need them to think the opposite. When it gets real hot, mellow out on the water a little bit, turn the faucets down.

And the biggest problem is when the power goes out, people seem to get bored because now they can’t be in their house because the air conditioners aren’t working and the TV’s not working. So, they want to go outside and wash their car, but I don’t have the power to produce the water. So now we’re just taking up storage and using that to wash the car, wash down the sidewalk or, you know, playing on the slippery slide, the hose and I get it. It’s hot. but if their power is not on, our power’s not on and we’re not producing any water.

in July and August, those are the biggest months out of the year and we’re delivering anywhere from 40 to 45 million gallons of water a month in those two months. Now, if you think if all of our storage tanks were full. That’s three million gallons of water, and I’m burning through 40 million in a month. So it doesn’t take a lot of math, to figure out how fast those tanks can drain out.

So I need people just to remember, we’re a small utility, we have a limited amount of capability and a lot of that’s dictated by how much water is underground. Just don’t think of it as an infinite resource. It is not. It’s very finite. The amount of drinking water on this planet is very small and most of it’s locked up in glaciers and the rest of the water is undrinkable. It’s polluted or salt. And, you know, it’s pretty to look at and play on with a boat but you can’t drink it. And so we need to keep that in mind.

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES

Sue Beck, YLOA director and current president

Kathy Miller, YLOA director

Mark Zoeller, YLOA treasurer

Todd Benzie, YLOA director

Ken Sartain, YLOA director

Jonathan Penrose, YLOA-YSPUC general manager

Sandy Eigenman, former YLOA director and president 2020-21

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Sue Beck, YLOA director

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

This week it’s YLOA Director Sue Beck, raised in a military family in Silicon Valley, the only girl with four brothers, who worked for many information technology firms. Constructive, fact-based communication and teamwork are her priorities.

Tell me about your childhood, where you were born and grew up.

I was born in Quantico, Virginia, into a military family.  My dad was in the Marine Corps for over 20 years, World War II, and the Korean conflict.

My dad got an assignment to move to California to be a Marine Corps recruiter, that was in 1954.  We moved to Saratoga, California. I already had two older brothers at that time, and we are very far apart in years. My oldest brother is 12 years older than me. (Sue also had two younger brothers). Yeah, I’m the middle child, only daughter, and the bossy one.

My two older brothers were also in the military, Navy, a nice big family. We had so much fun together family vacation to Lake Tahoe, the World’s Fair in Washington State, just a wonderful childhood. When we lived in Saratoga, it was all orchards. We would go play in the orchards and pick cherries, and apricots and all the great fruit out there in orchards.

My mom worked for the Center for the Blind in downtown San Jose and the Department of Rehabilitation.  Very hard working, middle class family.

Losing their home
When I was in the 8th grade, our house burnt down, which was traumatic, but no one was hurt except for the loss of everything you ever knew and had as a little kid. It was caused by an overheated refrigerator. It was kind of shocking because we had grown up in that neighborhood. All our friends and memories were there.  We moved to San Jose, and the family adjusted. I started my freshman year at Lynbrook High School.

One of my older brothers was in Vietnam while I was in high school. Several of my friends’ brothers were also in Vietnam, a group of us got together occasionally, and packaged goodies to send to our brothers and all the guys on the destroyer tender they were serving on.

What did you want to be when you were in high school?

I wanted to go into the military, but my dad completely opposed it, said women shouldn’t be in the military. That was fine and I really respected my parents, so okay, second choice, I want to be a teacher.

I attended De Anza Junior College and San Jose State to become an English Teacher, however, it was the early 70’s and the Silicon Valley was just kicking off, I wanted to be part of the evolution and the technology bug got me.  Bye college, hello career.

Where did you work?

My first job was a keypunch operator at a company called Signetics. You know, the punch cards that you take to the old IBM 1170 in this big room, and it then came out on a big paper reel, which then you took and converted to digital media. I started in that and then moved into information technology. Not the programming part of it, my experience is more around building network infrastructure and architecture, cabling, design for data center disaster recovery for and telecommunications, call centers.

Signetics was bought out by North American Phillips, I headed over to National Semiconductor. Lots of people followed the same path in the valley because you would go from  semiconductor company to semiconductor company.

I have probably worked for over 10 different companies in different industries throughout a 45-year career.  I’ve worked for Motorola, AT&T, The Gap, Merrill Lynch and Avid Technology.  I retired from Avid Technology in 2018.  I went back to work for a short time at the end of 2020 for Papa John’s International in their Telecommunications Department and retired again last Friday.

Tell us about your husband and how you met.

I have an amazingly smart and quite witty husband; I love that wittiness.  We met in 1979 at a wedding reception for a co-worker of mine.  We both went through our childhood sweetheart marriages. Second marriage for both of us but we have been together for 43 years.  Our wonderful, blended family has 3 grown children and 7 grandchildren.  We are proud of all of them and the wonderful people they have become.  They are quite doting to us which we both love.  We have a Zoom Party every month as they live all over the country, California, Nevada, and Texas but we don’t miss a beat in being there to support each other in whatever event, holiday, or drama goes on in families.

What brought you and your family to YLP?

In 2015 my husband and I discussed moving. We were over this Bay Area traffic and people and everything going on. We’re living in Morgan Hill at the time, and we said, you know, let’s start setting ourselves up for retirement.  I kid you not, we literally put a map of California on the wall and threw darts at it because we didn’t want to leave California. My husband is a San Jose native and multi-generations of Beck’s had molded and built San Jose. Steve’s mom was still alive. She since has passed away, but she was ill, and we didn’t want to be too far that we couldn’t easily go see or help her.

OK, the dart thing is not working, what is it that we really want?  We said, okay we really want a very simple house, little bit of property. Nothing too hard, nothing too remote because as we get older, you’ve got to be close to hospitals and doctors. It must have a casino, not for us because we are not big gamblers but for visitors, people want to come visit us, a sporting clays range, and camping. Because we are both are avid shooters, not hunters, but we shoot sporting clays and skeet. We are also both certified gun safety and sporting clays instructors through the NSCA.  We saw that little town Coarsegold and I said, I am going to start looking. I came up here with my girlfriend a few times to look around and liked what I saw.

Back at Morgan Hill, we started looking at Zillow and we said, Yosemite Lakes Park is a nice place, and we found the Sun Mountain Gun Club near Chukchansi, and of course Yosemite National Park a stone’s throw away.

We found our house on Horseshoe Drive in 2015, a three-bedroom two-bath, after I looked at about 10 houses. I said that’s the one and we bought it in 2015. We moved in February 2016.

I would commute two days a week to Santa Clara and would stay with my mother-in-law in San Jose. I would go to work for a couple days and then come home for the weekend and did that for about two years.

Did you have an interest in YLOA matters soon after moving here?

Very little because I was still working more than full-time and commuting. I did use the pool, and when my grandkids came to visit, we would use the pool and have dinner in the clubhouse. I read newsletters too, I didn’t really attend meetings. I never lived in an HOA,  didn’t even know what it was till I retired in 2018.

I could have done committees, but I did not, I’m not a horribly social person. I get a little uncomfortable in environments that I am not familiar with until I know people or get familiar.

Once I stopped working for a little while, I was still interested but I really wanted to sit on the grand jury for a while because I wanted to know what that was all about. I sat on the Madera County grand jury for 18 months and that was phenomenal experience.  It is a civil grand jury so you’re not looking at criminal cases, you’re looking at the government, how the government functions, any government malfeasance, you know, stuff like that. And I thought, I think this would be a good precursor to a quasi-governmental type of position.

I ran for the YLOA board in 2019, I did not get elected. I ran again in 2020 and I got elected.

How important is volunteering to you?

That has just been a fabric in my family values from childhood about civic, and community duty and volunteering. My parents volunteered for everything. They were heavily involved in VFW, Boy Scouts, Little League and Girl Scouts. I remember walking the neighborhood with my mom after the Jerry Lewis telethons, collecting for things like March of Dimes and Cystic Fibrosis. And I did that up until the mid-70s, when my kids were born. My parents volunteered for many institutions and instilled in us that giving back was the right thing to do.

Do you think YLP Cares is a good idea to help YLPers in need?

I am not as involved in YLP Cares as I maybe should be, but I find it to be a worthy non-profit cause.

How do you assess your time on the board? What have you learned?

This board is amazing, the things we have accomplished, and the camaraderie is nothing short of having another family. I’m amazed at how much time some of these board members spend doing, volunteering their time to do different projects, and getting things done to benefit the community.

I’ve learned to be more patient with others that don’t understand some of the decisions that are made, you know. All the decisions are made in full open view, but it takes some longer than others to understand the certain ins and outs of working with an HOA type of a governance because the two boards (YLOA and YSPUC) are fully open. We communicate everything that we can openly communicate and I think a lot of people don’t understand that there are certain levels of confidentiality that you have to maintain. It’s the same thing as being on a grand jury.

You can’t absorb it all in a very short period of time because this community has been here for 50 years. If you think you’re going to walk into this and have the solution to every single challenge that you come upon, it’s not going to happen because there is just some stuff, you know, like we’re rewriting. Having the attorney rewrite the DORs and bylaws to comply with current laws and things that just don’t make sense in 2021 or 2022 that made sense in 1970.

What are priorities for you as a board member (and chair of the Communications Committee)

Communications is big, just trying to get the community to listen to the facts. I’m a very factual person. When someone says to me well, you know, ‘THEY’ said, blahblahblah, I say, who are ‘THEY’ and where are your facts to back it up?

I’m not saying that we don’t communicate but we must find a different way to communicate because the sad thing is to me, social media is here to stay, I’m not going to bash it, I read it, because I want to know what the community is thinking out there. The only way you are going to get feedback is, unfortunately, through social media.

But I like to see a little bit more positivity on the communication. I think the Association — you William and Jonathan our GM, do a fantastic job with YLP Life, putting information on the YLOA Website, the YLP Facebook page. I just wish people would read it and attend Board Meetings.

Mark Zoeller also mentioned paving the north end of Blue Heron Lake for those who are mobility challenged would be a nice addition, but we must get our existing infrastructure into good shape before embarking on new projects.

What would you like to tell others who may want to run for the board?

I would say this is not for the faint of heart, it’s hugely important. There are huge decisions that we make in our best business judgment. You have to have broad shoulders, because you will be ridiculed. And that’s okay, because everybody is entitled to their opinion, whether it’s right or wrong. You have got to be committed to be part of a team because that’s what the whole board is about. It’s a team we speak as one — not one person, one body of government. It is a lot of work, rewarding for the most part but you (collectively) will be ridiculed for your decisions. However. that should not defray anyone from wanting to get involved on the board or a committee.  Committees are an important aspect of being part of the community and providing their valuable skills, and input to the board.

What do you desire for YLP? What’s your vision for years ahead?

Well, I think it’s getting there. I mean, I just want to watch this darn pandemic be over, I just want it to be the vibrant place that it used to be, with the Friday night music back, and the events happening and a carnival in the parking lot.

I just want it to be a fun, happy place for people to want to live. I think these past 18 months have really been hard on people, people are stressed out. They need an outlet, a positive outlet, and I can’t think of anything more positive than becoming a community again.

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES

Kathy Miller, YLOA director

Mark Zoeller, YLOA treasurer

Todd Benzie, YLOA director

Ken Sartain, YLOA director

Jonathan Penrose, YLOA-YSPUC general manager

Sandy Eigenman, YLOA president 2020-21

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