PUD historian hangs it up
For the past 28 years, people who had a question about their water or electric service in Truckee could always turn to Jim Maass for answers.A Truckee resident since 1969, Maass came to town as a government teacher at Tahoe Truckee High School. Eager to find a way to serve his community, he joined the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s board of directors March 1, 1977, and he has been a member continuously since.”Like any young person who’s idealistic, you want to jump in and maybe help the community out. And I was looking for what I could do to serve and give back to the community,” Maass said of his motivation for serving on the utility district board.
Often one of the more outspoken board members during his tenure at the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, Maass was initially elected during a recall that saw three sitting board members lose their seats.Hesitant at first to get involved in the recall, Maass was convinced that he could do some good on the utility district board when the directors decided to raise water rates, basing the new rates on the size of parcel served versus the amount of water used.Over the years, Maass and the other directors on the board have confronted a number of challenges including disputes with Dart Industries during the construction of Tahoe Donner, an almost 20-year battle with Sierra Pacific over power transmission and controversial decisions to take over the Donner Lake and Glenshire water systems.Through all of the controversy, however, Maass said he felt like the utility district has always had the support of the Truckee community.
“I’ve been involved with all that stuff. It’s been kind of a fun thing some times and not a fun thing at other times. But I think generally speaking the community has been really supportive of the PUD …”As a historian by nature, Maass has always been the go-to guy for others at the utility district and the school district who need to know anything about how the entities have operated over the years. Losing his presence on the utility district board will certainly mean that the other directors will sometimes have to do a little more research. But Maass said he thinks the district will make a smooth transition”There’s always that gap if somebody with that kind of knowledge moves on,” he said. “But is it a disaster? No. There’s no indispensable person, anybody can be replaced … And of course I’m going to be at the other end of the phone if there are any historical questions.”
Maass decided not to seek re-election this year because of future plans to move outside the public utility district’s boundaries. While he is looking forward to a new phase in his life, he is sorry that he will miss the build-out of the district’s broadband project.”My only regret is that, as of noon Friday, I’m no longer a part of this, and it’s still not done. It’s been five years, and it’s still not done. I would have liked to have been able to see it to its completion … But I know it will happen in a short matter of time,” he said of the fiber-optic network that is still tied up in litigation at the moment.Today is officially Maass’ last day as a member and chairman of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District board, with remaining board members Pat Sutton, Joe Aguera and Ron Hemig continuing to serve, and new directors Bill Thomason and Tim Taylor stepping up to the dais.And while Maass can tell stories for hours about the 28 years of struggles and growing pains the utility district has faced over the years, in the end he said he is happy to leave the district in able hands and in better shape than he found it.
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