Undefeated Mason calls it a career | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Undefeated Mason calls it a career

Patrick McCartney

By the standard yardstick of politics, Bob Mason has had an enviable 14-year career on the South Tahoe Public Utility District’s board of directors.

After being appointed to the board to complete the final two years of a vacant seat, Mason won three straight elections without a single challenger. Under state rules governing special districts, Mason’s name didn’t even appear on the ballot.

“I never had to mount much of a campaign,” said the semiretired architect, who has lived in South Lake Tahoe since 1957. “I went to the candidate forums just in case the people had a question to ask about the district.”

Mason has decided to step down from the board with an unblemished record, having served through a sometimes-tumultuous decade. Among the accomplishments Mason said he is most proud of are the construction of a dam in Alpine County to store treated wastewater from the Tahoe Basin, the conversion of the district’s sewage treatment plant from tertiary to advanced secondary operations, and the award given the district in 1994 for the efficiency of its sewage plant.

Beyond the accomplishments, Mason said he will simply miss being a part of the board of a district that supplies water to 12,000 customers and sewer service to 16,500.

“I’ll miss the whole atmosphere of decision making,” Mason said. “There will be a void in my life.”

Mason said wastewater spills in the 1980s was largely the result of the district’s construction of the world’s first sewage plant that treated wastewater to the tertiary level – clean enough to be used as drinking water.

While the district gained international renown for the feat, the heavy load of chemicals used to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from the wastewater caused complications.

“The chemicals were eating up our transportation system,” Mason said. “It probably accelerated the deterioration of the export pipeline by 10 to 15 years.”

Another accomplishment during his tenure on the board was the district’s construction of a dam to store treated wastewater exported to Alpine County.

“Alpine County was not very happy to have us over there. We had to fight them,” Mason said. “But now they’re happy with us, at least the ranchers who use the water to irrigate their crops.”

District officials say they will miss Mason’s presence on the board.

“He’s the real steady hand on the board,” said Bob Baer, the district’s executive director.

Chris Strohm, who chairs the board of directors, said the board will miss Mason’s experience, wisdom and logic.

“The community owes him a lot,” Strohm said.

Mason said he will now have more time to spend with Roberta, his wife of 46 years, and the couple’s two sons and three grandchildren.

“We like to travel, so we’ll see how that works out,” Mason said.

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