The dynamic of the San Mateo County Harbor District was rocked Tuesday as charter boat captain Tom Mattusch and marine biologist Nicole David ousted two incumbents and will join re-elected Jim Tucker on the Board of Commissioners as it seeks to repair dwindling public approval and fend off county inquires into dissolution.
“I think we really have a chance to turn the direction around for the Harbor District and make it work as a service for the public again,” David said.
Nine people sought three seats on the troubled board that’s been criticized for a lack of civility amongst commissioners, not listening to commercial fishermen’s concerns and was the subject of a San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury investigation.
Voters elected Mattusch to replace formerly appointed incumbent Will Holsinger and David will oust Commissioner Robert Bernardo who lost re-election to a second term.
“I absolutely believe that that’s a total repudiation about how the Harbor District has operated for quite some time and people are looking for change and that’s why they brought fresh faces in,” Mattusch said.
Mattusch won the two year-seat with 37,900, votes, or 47.7 percent, while Holsinger, who filled the term for the late Leo Padreddii, lost with 32,570 votes, or 40.99 percent, and Pescadero resident Robert Grant came in third with 8,992 votes, or 11.32 percent, according to final semi-official results from the San Mateo County Elections Office.
Two four-year terms were won by David, who came in first with 45,749 votes, or 31.01 percent, and Tucker, who’s served on the board for 16 years, with 34,720 votes, or 23.54 percent. Bernardo narrowly came in third with 34,232 votes, or 23.21 percent, followed by Kimberly Collins with 17,534 votes, or 11.89 percent, Brian Rogers with 8,855 votes, or 6 percent, and Shawn Mooney with 6,417 votes, or 4.35 percent.
Half of the countywide district’s approximately $10 million budget comes from property taxes that go to overseeing Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, Oyster Point Marina/Park in South San Francisco, the coast’s search and rescue team, an RV park, coastal trail and a slew of other responsibilities.
Bernardo, while saddened he won’t have the opportunity to continue to work for the district, said he remains optimistic the elected board will work with the best interests of the public in mind.
“It’s the will of the people. The voters have spoken and for me, personally, I really would just like to thank the voters in San Mateo County for giving me the honor and privilege of serving during the past four years,” Bernardo said. “I would hope that there are going to be people, if not me, that will watch out for Oyster Point Marina, because if you look at the makeup of the board now, you don’t have anyone from South San Francisco anymore.”
Tucker was not available for comment and Holsinger said he’ll direct his spare time toward other community service opportunities and wishes his opponents well.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity that I had and certainly it will be interesting to see what happens with the district in the future,” Holsinger said. “I thought there was a lot of good things to be done in the district in the coming years and I would have liked to be a part of it.”
The new Board of Commissioners will be tasked with responding to county inquiries into dissolution after a San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury report slammed the commissioners for a lack of civility amongst themselves and recommended the district’s responsibilities be absorbed by the county and other agencies.
“I would definitely like to get the Harbor District back on track financially because I think that should be the most important priority, and then focus on water quality issues,” David said.
The board will also oversee the development of the district’s strategic business plan and find a replacement for General Manager Peter Grenell who will retire at the end of the December after 17 years of service.
“[I’m] looking forward to a whole lot. There’s a lot we want to accomplish. We want to take a harbor that’s been stagnant for a couple decades and see some real changes,” Mattusch said. “Something that’s beneficial to the fishermen, the leaseholders and the public.”
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