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With every seat on the Clackamas River Water District Board in play for the May 21 election, Clackamas County appointees Kenneth Humberston, Hugh Kalani and Larry Sowa kept their seats as part of a promise to voters to restore order to an agency that had become notorious for its political dysfunction.

On Tuesday, each of the three sitting commissioners won election by a more than 20 percent margin. Humberston easily beat off a bid by Commissioner Grafton Sterling, whose seat is not expiring until 2015, to create another board vacancy.

Voters also supported Kalani over Warren Mitchell Jr., Sterling’s fellow supporter of Commissioner Patricia Holloway, who was overwhelmingly recalled from the CRW Board in a specially scheduled March 19 election. Sterling would have also faced a recall vote had it not been for a petitioner’s clerical error.

Recently the Oregon Supreme Court dismissed the first appeal of a county-court decision on Holloway and Sterling’s bid to gain control of the board in October. Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey S. Jones ruled on Nov. 15 against an attorney representing Holloway’s attempt to block Clackamas County commissioners from appointing the three new members to the board.

Humberston, Kalani and Sowa credit their development of “mutual respect” with allowing them to pass a series of measures since their appointment in November, frequently despite 3-2 votes.

During their time on the board, they have supported annexing Johnson City into the district, which Johnson City voters gave their final approval in this week’s election. They required that commissioners work through General Manager Lee Moore in order to talk with contracted vendors, and they placed the district’s attorney on a retainer, which they hope will save $60,000 annually when compared with past burgeoning annual legal bills.

Sowa, using his experience leading meetings of Clackamas County commissioners and CRW’s budget committee, has enforced a ban of commissioners talking directly to one another, in an effort to prevent infighting.

Since the April notice announcing Holloway’s recall vacancy, the district only received one application from someone who does not live within district boundaries. With no qualified candidates for the vacancy, as of the week of the election, this topic is on the June agenda for discussion.

“We believe that a member of the budget committee will be applying soon,” Humberston said. “If so, he appears to be a good candidate with experience and a team player.”

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