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Posted on: March 30, 2021

Women's History Month

Charles Gibson

This Women's History month, we celebrate the historical contributions of the many women who have boldly shaped our community and our region.

Women have played and continue to play critical roles in every sphere of life throughout our nation's history. However, their stories are often overlooked and undervalued. Honoring their stories and accomplishments is essential, and that is why the District's Board of Directors opened its March meeting commemorating Women's History Month and women's vital role locally and regionally.

As I look back on my career, I see clearly the influence of women. When I was young, my mother encouraged me to enter into public service, and my childhood friend's mother, Teena Clifton, showed me how through her career as a civic activist who was one of the first female city managers in California. Below, I spotlight four women who have had a lasting impact on our community and our region’s quest for a reliable water supply.

  • Marianne Bergeson was a pioneering Orange County politician who was the first woman to serve in the state Senate and Assembly. A passionate advocate for education, she came further into the spotlight for her work as an Orange County supervisor helping guide the county government out of bankruptcy.
  • Saundra Jacobs has been a District Board member since 1996. She founded and grew her environmental and land use planning company into a thriving business with offices in two states and dozens of staff. Her public service commitment underscores her focus on creating and implementing sound environmental, water, and government policy.
  • Betty H. Olson, Ph.D., has been a District Board member since 1994. A researcher interested in public health issues related to water and wastewater, she bridged the gap between academia and water policy through her leadership and service on water boards and associations, all while mentoring and encouraging young researchers to follow in her footsteps.
  • Harriett Wieder was a committed community organizer and politician who was the first female elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Known as a woman who made things happen, she wasn't afraid to tackle challenging issues such as water rights, wetlands development, and crime-fighting technology.

This short list only scratches the surface of women who have had an impact on Orange County. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with each. Their encouragement and leadership have had a profound effect on me. Clifton, Wieder, and Bergeson in particular encouraged me early in my career. They gave me confidence by showing me how they got things done. I learned a lot from them.

Women have contributed to the growth, strength, and resiliency of our community and our region in countless recorded and unrecorded ways. At Santa Margarita Water District, we acknowledge their contributions and understand that much of what we have accomplished would not have been possible without them. It is a privilege to honor women’s role in shaping our community this Women’s History Month. 

Chuck Gibson

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