Zone 7 Water Agency Director Olivia Sanwong will be stepping down from her position on the agency's governing board later this month so she can start her new role on the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors.
Sanwong, who has served on the Zone 7 board for the last 4-1/2 years, told the Weekly that she will begin her new role as EBRPD Ward 5 director effective Jan. 2, succeeding longtime Director Ayn Wieskamp. Sanwong, a Pleasanton native who won reelection to her Zone 7 seat in June, opted to run for the EBRPD position after Wieskamp announced her retirement and was the only candidate to file for Ward 5 ahead of the November election.
"I believe our regional parks are one of the best parts of living in the East Bay," Sanwong said. "I decided to run for the East Bay Regional Park District Ward 5 Director to continue Director Ayn Wieskamp's legacy of managing our natural resources responsibly and balancing recreational access with environmental protections. I have served as an EBRPD Park Advisory Committee member since 2015, learning about issues facing EBRPD and being responsive to residents and park users."
The district is made up of 73 parks spanning across Alameda and Contra Costa counties, overseen by an elected Board of Directors that works to manage and preserve the region's natural and cultural resources, according to its website.
Ward 5, where Sanwong will soon represent, includes the areas of Dublin, a portion of Fremont, Livermore, Newark, Pleasanton, Sunol and unincorporated eastern and southern Alameda County.
Dave Mason, public information supervisor at the park district, told the Weekly that Sanwong had qualified for the seat unopposed, which is why the Ward 5 position wasn't on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Current Ward 5 Director Wieskamp, a longtime public official and community leader in Livermore, announced her pending retirement from EBRPD at the end of July, saying she would not seek reelection, which was when Sanwong said she decided to run for the position even after she was just reelected on the Zone 7 board.
According to Mason, Wieskamp served as a park district director representing Ward 5 for 24 years and is the second-longest serving female board member in park district history.
Sanwong said she will be leaving the water agency after having won reelection for a second four-year term with Zone 7 in the June primary because she could not hold voting positions on both boards due to conflict-of-interest rules.
"I am proud of the Zone 7 Board of Directors' work over the past 4.5 years and want to thank my colleagues for trusting me to serve as Board President and Vice President," Sanwong said. "We faced many challenges during my tenure with Zone 7, and I am grateful to our fantastic Zone 7 management and staff for their hard work."
Zone 7 communications specialist Alexandra Bradley told the Weekly that after Sanwong submitted her letter of resignation as director at the water agency on Nov. 30, it will result in a vacancy on the board for a term that ends on June 30, 2026.
"It was an honor working with her," Zone 7 General Manager Valerie Pryor said of Sanwong. "I appreciate her dedication and passion for water and flood protection. I know she is equally passionate about recreation so the EBRPD role will be a perfect fit for her."
Sanwong said that her final Zone 7 board meeting will be on Dec. 21 and that the remaining board will decide what to do about the vacant seat. She said they will most likely follow the agency's established appointment process to fill the seat.
Bradley said Zone 7 follows government guidelines for filling vacancies on the board, having 60 days after Sanwong officially leaves to replace her.
"If the Board of Directors does not act to fill a vacancy during that time, the Board of Supervisors of the county of Alameda has the authority to fill the vacancy during the next 30 days," Bradley said. "In either case, the individual appointed to fill the vacancy will only serve until the next general district election, which will be in June 2024."
She added that the individual who is elected in June 2024 would serve for two years until the completion of Sanwong's original term in 2026 and could stand for reelection in the June 2026 election.
"This is an excellent opportunity for someone interested in water issues," Sanwong added. "I learned a lot during my time with Zone 7 and will always cherish my experience with this agency."