By Thea Lamkin
Len Materman, an environmental-policy specialist, has been named the new executive director of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (JPA).
Mr. Materman emerged as the strongest of three candidates, all of whom were interviewed by both the JPA board and a select citizens' committee, according to a JPA official.
A San Carlos resident, Mr. Materman will start his job in early August, and will be the JPA's second executive director. He replaces Cynthia D'Agosta, who joined the JPA in 2000 and who resigned in mid-March to become director of the environmental group, Committee for Green Foothills as of May 1.
Mr. Materman currently is a program adviser for the Stanford branch of the Center of Ecotourism and Sustainable Development, a bi-coastal nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Involved in public policy for more than 20 years, he was director of government affairs at the University of California, Berkeley, before working in the Clinton administration as an adviser to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on pre-disaster planning and environmental issues. During that period, he headed two White House task forces dealing with community environmental planning.
"The JPA is a very strong organization, but it also has a lot of potential in which to grow," Mr. Materman said. "I think the public is very interested in seeing results."
The small agency, run by a board of representatives from neighboring cities and counties, is working to develop a comprehensive flood-protection and environmental-improvement project for areas affected by the creek, which has a lengthy history of flooding.
Heyward Robinson, who represents Menlo Park and acts as the JPA's vice-chair and secretary, said Mr. Materman's extensive and relevant experience makes him especially well-suited for the position.
"I think he's going to bring a fresh set of eyeballs and neurons to this job," Mr. Robinson said.
Mr. Materman also is familiar with watercourses: He founded America's Rivers Communities Inc. in 2000 and served on the board of Friends of Cordilleras Creek in San Mateo County.
He more recently served on the Flooding, Land-Use and Creeks Ad Hoc Advisory Committee (FLUC) for San Carlos, where he unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2005.
He will confront new challenges in "the local California rules that all of us have to put up with," Mr. Robinson said.
In the past, the JPA has struggled to secure federal and local funding for the long-term studies and flood-control projects it seeks to implement.
Mr. Robinson hopes Mr. Materman's experience will be instrumental in "helping us communicate issues and challenges, both to the public and government officials."
"I think Len will be a forceful, effective advocate for that," Mr. Robinson said.
Mr. Materman is joining the JPA at a time when the board is attempting to put some critical projects in motion, said Palo Alto Vice-Mayor Peter Drekmeier, who represents Palo Alto on the JPA board. Mr. Drekmeier said tasks include flood-damage-reduction studies and "early implementation projects" that have suffered from lack of funding.
"We have a lot to do in the near future," he said. "We need to get started sooner rather than later, and make sure it's compatible with a long-term fit."
Thea Lamkin is with the Palo Alto Weekly.