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Frantz tapped to replace Short on TID board
Michael Frantz, a Hickman farmer, was appointed to the post of Turlock Irrigation District Division 1 Director on Tuesday morning. The vote of appointment was unanimous among the other four TID directors.

"It's an honor to be able to serve," said Frantz shortly after the decision came down.

Eleven candidates had applied for appointment to the vacant seat, occupied by Phillip Short for three decades until his Sept. 25 death. The list of potential TID directors was narrowed to three by a special advisory committee, comprised of Division 2 Director Charles Fernandes and Division 4 Director Rob Santos, prior to Tuesday's meeting.

According to Santos, that paring down was based on an overall evaluation of resumes. No scoring system was involved, merely an assessment of past experiences.

Frantz's application brought him to the finals on the heels of his 13 years of experience as chief executive officer of Frantz Wholesale Nursery, LLC, a 350-acre operation that grew 400 percent under his leadership. Frantz is also the director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crops Advisory Board member, and has served as member and director of numerous other nursery and agriculture related boards.

Frantz was joined in the finals by Turlockers John Eisenhut - who owns an 80 acre almond orchard, serves as chairman of several agricultural credit boards, and ran as the Democratic candidate for 26th District California Assemblyman in 2008 - and Mike Brem, president of SupHerb Farms and chairman of the Turlock Planning Commission. Despite his selection, Brem was unable to attend Tuesday's selection meeting.

"He was notified we had this process and apparently he had another commitment," Fernandes said. "This does not disqualify him."

Others who were interested in the post were Hughson residents Chris Barth, Craig Brooks and James Hudelson; Turlock residents Mike Brem, John Eisenhut, Nick Hackler, Brian Long and Anthony Walker; Ray Prock, Jr. of Denair; and Rod Vilas, owner of Vilas Farms, a 400-acre almond ranch in Ceres.

Santos noted that Brem could have made a Nov. 10 selection hearing, but the directors opted not to reschedule due to potential scheduling conflicts and the fact that the Tuesday hearing had been announced with significant notice. Brem was still considered for the seat, despite his absence.

In their public interviews Tuesday morning, before the appointment was made, the TID Board of Directors quizzed Frantz and Eisenhut in search of differentiating factors. Eisenhut offered up his board experience, knowledge of economics and budgeting, and status as an almond farmer, while Frantz cast himself as a delegator, not a micromanager, who was naught but enthusiastic to take the post of TID director.

Frantz argued his young age of 32 - and the youthful enthusiasm that accompanied it - would be an asset to the post, as he'd have many years to contribute to the district. Despite his youth, Frantz has long wanted to be a TID director. He even called Director Short a few years ago to ask what he might be able to do to groom himself to one day hold the position.

Frantz said that he has no aspirations to use the seat of TID director as a political stepping-stone. He said he has never run for a higher office and never plans to. Eisenhut also noted he was not using the post of TID director as a stepping stone, but he did run for State Assembly just a year ago.

Frantz lauded TID as a model of good decision-making for all of California's utilities, and stated that he hopes to honor that history as a director. He also plans to be as visible and involved as possible, reaching out to water and power organizations around the state.

Both Eisenhut and Frantz argued for plentiful and cheap water, safeguarding water rights, and doing all that is possible to keep electricity costs down.

As questioning drew to a close, the TID Board of Directors seemed unable to decide between the two candidates in front of them.

"You two both seem to be perfectly qualified and capable of serving on this board and contributing in a very positive way," said Division 3 Director Michael Berryhill. Berryhill went on to say he believed that Frantz might have the edge, as he had more years to contribute to the TID and to familiarize himself with the complexities of water and power.

"I'm concerned about need for public board experience," said Division 5 Director Randy Fiorini. "I think that concern would give the nod to John Eisenhut. In terms of personal business and employee management and things like that, Frantz certainly gets the nod.

"I agree with you, we have two excellent candidates, two very qualified candidates, we can't go wrong with either choice," he said.

Ultimately, Santos made the motion to appoint Frantz on the basis of his enthusiasm for the position, broad support in the community, and status as a farmer and ratepayer. Santos also noted Frantz's communication skills. The board unanimously agreed with Santos's motion.

"(In) all of the applicants, there wasn't a loser among them. Any could have done a great job," Fernandes said.

Frantz will be seated on Dec. 8, alongside the two new TID directors chosen in today's election, who will replace Fiorini and Berryhill. Frantz's appointment will carry him through the remainder of Short's elected term, which runs through December 2011.