Linda Craig, a Menlo Park resident, former Portola Valley official, and president of the Bay Area League of Women Voters, will be honored Wednesday, March 16, at 2:30 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors chambers in Redwood City with a resolution noting her decade of service focusing on regional issues on behalf of San Mateo County.
Ms. Craig recently retired from the Local Agency Formation Commission, the seven-person panel that will be honoring Ms. Craig. LAFCo has the mission of managing the boundaries of the county's cities, towns and special districts, such as fire protection and healthcare districts, to prevent urban sprawl and promote efficient and orderly growth of government services.
"I'm 75, going on 76, and it's time for me to retire," Ms. Craig said in an interview. "At this point, I am totally overloaded," she said, referring to her involvement with the League of Women Voters in another regional concern: a study by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments on the value of a merger between the two agencies. A report is due in July.
When Ms. Craig joined LAFCo, it was just beginning a review of municipal services by all 20 cities and special districts in the county, including healthcare and mosquito abatement districts. In the interview, she noted briefly LAFCo's inability to persuade the county to dissolve the mosquito abatement district, particularly in light of a 2013 embezzlement scandal involving a district official. "I was amazed that (the county) didn't fire the general manager," she said.
Asked for her view of how the county is organized, she said there are "too many cities," many with services that could be shared. During good economic times, though, it's hard to make the case for sharing, she said.
Among the critical issues she said are in need of regional coordination: open space, housing, transportation, economic inequality and sea-level rise. "There should be a regional agency that makes sense, with ideas for funding that are regional in nature," she said. "There should be people directly elected to a governing body."
LAFCo board is made up of two county supervisors -- currently Don Horsley and Adrienne Tissier -- two elected city or town officials, two officials from special districts, and one person appointed to represent the public, a role Ms. Craig served for 10 years as a regular and alternate board member.
With an annual budget of around $400,000, LAFCo has dealt recently with issues such as property annexations to a sanitary district and extensions of water services to residential and commercial parcels. And there are bigger fish to fry, including an item during Ms. Craig's tenure that she mentioned in passing as a notable accomplishment.
The Los Trancos County Water District, serving Vista Verde and Los Trancos Woods, sold its water operations in 2005, but with property tax revenues still coming in, the district used them to fund brush clearing, storm-drain maintenance and incentives to residents to conserve water -- activities unrelated to the district's charter. A civil grand jury recommended dissolution of the district, and the situation had drawn the attention of the state's Legislative Analyst's Office.
LAFCo was instrumental in guiding the water board in gracefully dissolving the water district in 2015 while still using its tax revenues for its community, but under the oversight of the county Public Works Department, the Woodside Fire Protection District and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
Ms. Craig spent many years in local government. She began as chief administrative officer in Portola Valley Town Hall, where she stayed for five years. "I loved it," she said, "but on the other hand, all they wanted was a clerk and a bookkeeper."
She moved on to jobs in the city halls of Sunnyvale, Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, South San Francisco and Santa Clara, and earned a master's degree in public administration.
Her involvement with the League of Women Voters goes back 40 years and includes roles as director of advocacy, of regional government and land use, and of air quality and solid waste. She is in her third two-year term as president of the Bay Area chapter. She said she will step down from that position in June.