wins back MID seat
3 incumbents lose in low turnout vote
November 9, 2017
Suzy Hultgren — the first woman board president of
the Merced Irrigation District — will return to serve
on the board after solidly defeating incumbent Kevin Gonzalves
and businessman Sam Sahota in Tuesday’s election.
In the Division 4 race, Hultgren received 62 percent of
the vote (or 642 votes out of 1,031 cast), Sahota was next
with only 21 percent (220 votes) Gonzalves took 16 percent
Hultgren will represent an MID division that runs through
the city of Livingston, parts of Atwater, and rural communities
around Cressey, Winton, Amsterdam and Snelling.
While the incumbent Gonzalves had union support, he also
has been been surrounded by controversy in recent months
due to legal matters in a district water theft case, and
headlines in the daily paper detailing past personal transgressions.
In an interview, the 53-year-old Hultgren told the Times:
“We are in the battle of our lives right now with
the state. We need to be unified so that we can support
and direct staff to get things done.”
This will be Hultgren’s second term on the MID board.
She was first elected in 2007 as only the second woman to
do so, and the first in some 80 years.
In the Division 5 race, challenger Bob Weimer, 71, of Weimer
Farms, beat out incumbent Billy Pimentel with the most votes
in this year’s MID races — 1,567 — or
64 percent. Pimentel earned 36 percent of the vote, or 879
The Division 5 seat represents areas in and around Atwater,
Buhach, McSwain, and lands stretching west near and along
In a interview with the Times, Weimer said: “The decisions
that are being made by the Merced Irrigation District in
the coming years are going to be very critical to the well
being and economic growth of this basin. The wrong decisions
can become very costly.”
Pimentel has served many terms on the MID board throughout
his career, for a total of 21 years. He was highly critical
of this year’s “off-year” election because
of predicted low voter turnout.
The small ballot for the county featured three MID races,
and a race for one spot on the Gustine School board (candidate
Richard Smith won that by 70 percent of the vote.)
In the overall election, a total of 4,329 ballots were cast
among some 32,079 registered voters eligible to participate
Perhaps the big upset of the night was challenger David
Cole inched out a win against incumbent Scott Walter Koehn
in the MID Division 2 race.
Cole, a special education teacher in Winton, won by 53.61
percent of the vote (or 371 votes) — just 50 votes
over Koehn’s total of 321 votes.
Koehn, who has served one 5-year term, was known for being
well-spoken as he represented MID at meetings and high-profile
The Division 2 seat represents areas in and around El Nido,
south Merced, downtown Merced, and parts of McSwain.