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SMWD's Long-Serving Water Chief to Retire

After 35 years in municipal water, Santa Margarita Water District General Manager John Schatz is calling it quits.

After 18 years at the , General Manager John Schatz has said he will retire June 29.

Schatz is one of the state’s longest serving water district general managers, according to district spokesperson Michele Miller. Schatz actually filled a second role, too, as the district's legal counsel.

Before joining SMWD in 1994, Schatz was general manager of the Jurupa Community Services District in western Riverside County for 10 years.

Before that he worked at Temecula's water district. In all, Schatz spent 35 years working in the field of municipal water.

SMWD Board of Directors President Bill Lawson praised Schatz for keeping service reliable and keeping costs low.

"Today, we can proudly say more than 155,000 residents regularly receive high quality, reliable and affordable water and wastewater services in large part due to John’s leadership and drive," Lawson said. "We are grateful he has instilled cost-conscious efficiencies at the District."

Schatz took over a troubled water district and developed a reputation for efficiency. During his tenure as general manager, the number of metered customers doubled, but the district's employee count was reduced from 163 to 122, Miller said.

One of the biggest recent projects involving the SMWD was the $54 million . The reservoir is the largest in South County in 45 years and will provide enough emergency water for half a million South County residents for up to one week.

The board is moving forward to find Schatz's replacement, Miller said. She said the board is scheduled to discuss the executive search process at its Finance Committee meeting Friday.

SMWD is Orange County's second-largest water district.

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