Candidate drops from STPUD election
While three names will appear on the election ballot for the South Tahoe Public Utility District’s seat No. 3, one of the candidates, Mark Witters, doesn’t want to garner any votes.
Since Oct. 5, Witters has been telling people to support the other challenger, Joyce Blackstone, in her pursuit of incumbent Mary Lou Mosbacher’s seat.
“I think it’s good news for the voters, frankly, because they have more of a chance to vote for someone new,” Blackstone said. “When you have three people running a race, you split the vote up, obviously. It’s a shame because those who want a challenger would split between Mark and myself.”
Witters is the operator of Meyers Shell and Food Mart, a station being sued by STPUD. He listed a possible conflict of interest and lacking the time to adequately perform the duties of the seat as reasons for dropping out.
“I don’t know if I could work with those guys, because the board has an open suit against me,” Witters said. “It’s kind of a conflict of interest. I don’t think that’s fair to the rate payers or the district.”
Witters said he supported Blackstone because he wanted new representation on the board and because she has long been involved and followed STPUD’s issues.
The district filed suit November 1998 against gasoline manufacturers, formulators, distributors and retailers, including several local stations, for its many wells that have been contaminated by MTBE. Witters was included – wrongly, he says – in the lawsuit.
In the fall of 1998, the station was in the process of completing environmental upgrades when a line broke, releasing gasoline into the ground. Cleanup began immediately. Wells in the area have been contaminated, but MTBE was discovered in them more than a year earlier. The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board had identified a nearby station as the responsible party.
Additionally, according to Witters, the accident was because of the negligence of Shell-hired contractors and not him.
Witters said he thought he was going to be released from the lawsuit by the time the election happened, but that hasn’t occurred.
If he is elected, Witters said he didn’t know what he would do.
Mosbacher was appointed to the board nine years ago and has held on to the seat during two previous elections. Blackstone challenged her four years ago, too.
Mosbacher said Friday she has always been unsure of the elections’ results until votes were in and felt the same way this year. She did not know whether Witters’ withdrawal and support of Blackstone would affect the race.
“I have been so busy working on my own campaign, I haven’t had time to think about other people’s campaigns,” she said. “I’ve been getting a lot of good response, but that doesn’t keep me from continuing to work hard.”
The election is Tuesday.
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