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Schulz Ends Tenure
For the first time in more than three decades, Robert Schulz of Escalon won't be sitting on the dais the next time the South San Joaquin Irrigation District board convenes.

Schulz did not seek reelection this year and served his final session with the board on Dec. 14, when his replacement, Bob Holmes of Escalon, was sworn in. But the SSJID offices in Manteca have been a familiar spot for Schulz, having been a member of the board since running for a post in 1977.

"It was during the drought when I felt the district should have done more to help the farmers," he said of what originally prompted him to run for the board. "We had only three irrigations ... my dad lost an almond orchard that year."

Schulz started serving his first term on the board in 1978 and said over the years there have been several significant accomplishments, starting with moving to automation of the district's canal system and later, "when we paid off the Tri-Dam project seven years ahead of schedule."

That early payoff allowed SSJID to put more money into the district for projects and Schulz said that has been beneficial in keeping the system updated.

He also pointed to the Van Groningen reservoir as being important, since water stored there can be delivered quickly to farmers.

"We also put the water treatment plant in for our cities," he said. "I give the Escalon (city) council a lot of credit, they got in on it."

The Nick DeGroot Water Treatment Plant is on Dodds Road, near Woodward Reservoir, and can provide water to the participating cities, including Escalon. At the time it was built, Escalon did not need another source of water for city residents but Schulz said with water likely to be needed in the future, he believes the city made the right choice to get on - and stay on - board.

Another huge project was installation of the district's 1.4-megawatt solar farm adjacent to the water treatment plant. That facility, named after Schulz, produces electricity for the district to use and sell.

"It almost eliminates the PG&E bill completely," Schulz said of powering the water treatment plant with the solar farm.

It has been the work in securing water rights, however, that Schulz said has been the most satisfying, since it helps ensure that agriculture in this area will remain profitable and viable.

As far as his replacement on the board, Schulz said it was important for him to see that a dairyman got the nod.

"I was kind of adamant about getting a dairyman on there because right now they have no representation," he said, noting that Holmes can bring a unique perspective to the panel.

Holmes ran unopposed for the seat and took his oath of office on Dec. 14, along with the re-elected Ralph Roos, representing Ripon on the board.

Along with his lengthy service on the SSJID board, Schulz has been involved in the Escalon community in a number of other ways, from being a member of the city council to his service as a volunteer firefighter. He also is involved in the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau and earlier this year was inducted into the county's Ag Hall of Fame.

While dealing with the business of the irrigation district has been a constant for 32 years, Schulz will have plenty to keep him busy, even without heading to Manteca on a regular basis.

"I still have 20 acres of almonds to take care of," Schulz said. "And I plan to do a little more traveling."