Former Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff will return to the dais at City Hall — this time as one of the newest members of the Utilities Advisory Commission.
Scharff, who served on the City Council for nine years before terming out in December, was part of a group of volunteers who on Monday night won council appointments to four local board and commissioners.
The Utilities Advisory Commission, which advises the city on utility rates, smart meters, Fiber to the Premise and other utility-related projects, will see the biggest overhaul, with three new members winning appointments to the seven-member board. They will be joined by A.C. Johnston, an incumbent commissioner who was appointed a second term by a unanimous council vote.
As a council member, Scharff had served as liaison to the utilities commission and represented the city to the Northern California Power Agency. In fact, he conducted his interview for the commission remotely because he was at the agency's federal power conference, where he helped lobby for restoration of local control for wireless equipment on utility poles.
Despite his experience, Scharff received some pushback during the application process. Councilwoman Alison Cormack alluded to citizens' concerns about his inconsistent attendance record as a representative on regional boards — criticisms that he had also fielded during his bid for a seat on the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board of directors (his council rival, former Mayor Karen Holman, won the seat).
And Councilman Tom DuBois asked him how he thinks the council should weigh Scharff's "wealth of experience" against the desire to let someone new volunteer.
Scharff told the council during the April 29 meeting that he is "totally committed to attending every meeting" and that he believes his institutional knowledge is valuable.
"A lot of people have left our department over the years. I've been working on our utilities for 10 years and I think it's worth something," Scharff said.
Scharff will be joined on the commission by Loren Smith, a program director at the consulting firm CBRE who had previously worked for Google and Facebook. In the second round of voting, Smith secured the four votes he needed to win an appointment to the commission. In his application, Smith cited his 30 years of experience in the siting, planning, designing and construction of commercial buildings. Smith has also worked in the telecommunication industry and, over the past year, has volunteered as a "community fellow" in Palo Alto's master planning process for the Cubberley Community Center.
The fourth opening on the commission will go to Donald Jackson, who will fill a seat left vacant by the March resignation of commissioner Arne Ballentine. Jackson, a computer engineer, has been part of a volunteer group that has been analyzing aircraft traffic over Palo Alto as part of a growing effort to combat airplane noise.
Jackson also signaled in his application that he is very interested in expanding Palo Alto's fiber-optic network, potentially bringing high-speed internet service to all local homes and businesses.
"I feel that depending on commercial telecommunications companies to invest in high speed infrastructure for our use has not, is not, and will never be in our long-term best interests," Jackson wrote in his application.
Jackson's term will expire on May 31, 2021, while the other three commissioners are scheduled to serve until May 31, 2022.
The new members will replace Terry Trumbull, whose term is expiring at the end of this month and who did not apply for a new term, and veteran Commissioner Judith Schwartz, who applied for a new term but did not win reappointment.
==Library, Human Relations commissions, Stormwater Committee==
The council also filled two seats on the Library Advisory Commission, appointing incumbent Bob Moss to another term and naming Pancho Chang, a strategic business adviser at Ravenswood Family Health Center, to fill the other vacancy.
The Human Relations Commission will also see some turnover in its membership. Commissioners Jill O'Nan and Deepali Brahmbhatt are both concluding their terms this month and neither has reapplied. They will be replaced by Daryl Savage, a former chair of the commission, and Patricia Regehr, who has worked as a substitute teacher for Palo Alto Unified and at Beechwood, a school in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park.
The city's Storm Water Management Oversight Committee will see two current members — David Bower and Marilyn Keller — return for new terms. They will be joined by newly appointed committee member Ron Owes, an environmental engineer.