Longtime Silverdale aqua man retires

Dave Cook -
Dave Cook
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Silverdale Water Commissioner Dave Cook has served the district for 24 years.

Dave Cook never really planned on disappearing into retirement.

A lifelong technology guru, the Silverdale resident was wrapping up his career as a civil engineer at Keyport in 1985 when he decided to direct his talents to a new type of public service.

So he ran for Silverdale Water Commissioner — and won.

Twenty-four years later, Cook, 81, has thoroughly enjoyed the experience, as he plans to retire following the completion of his fourth term at the end of the year.

“He has a lot of knowledge about the water district. We are losing a lot of institutional history with him leaving,” said Mark Hoffman, one of Silverdale’s two other water commissioners.

For Cook’s first 12 years on the job, the position was unpaid. A monthly stipend has since been added, but for Cook, the job was never about the money.

“I look at the position as basically volunteer and fun,” he said. “My role is to be the community representative to the district. It’s an important position.”

The job requires the commissioners to appear at the district’s monthly meetings. Cook said they are legally mandated to approve all budget items and new infrastructure projects, similar to commissioners for public schools and fire districts.

“He brought a lot of business sense,” Water Commissioner John Poppe said. “He was always looking for the best value for the money. He was a jewel.”

Silverdale was a much smaller town in 1985.

There was no Kitsap Mall and tall forests covered the Ridgetop area.

Water cost about $5 a month per household based on a rate structure that was 80 percent fixed and 20 percent dependent on usage.

Though the water district was starting to expand, it had long been a two-person operation, consisting of a maintenance worker and a financial operator.

“There were fewer workers than commissioners,” Cook said.

Silverdale’s population has since exploded. And the water district now employs about 40 people.

Morgan Johnson, general manager of the Silverdale Water District, credits Cook with creating the outline for today’s restructured, conservation-minded rate structure, which is 30 percent fixed and 70 percent based on usage.

The structure improved environmental sustainability at the time, Johnson said. However, customers have since adapted to the raised prices, inspiring the district to push for water reclamation projects to reduce scarcity in the long term.

Johnson said Cook helped the district strike a solid balance for water usage between customers and business, a challenging job considering the expansion of wells to coincide with the populations spike.

“He’s not just looking at today, he’s looking at the future,” Johnson said. “A lot of elected officials just want to do something during their tenure but his efforts will come to be realized in 15 to 20 years.”

The district won state water district of the year in 2003.

Cook said the water district receives few serious complaints, though trivial questions are common.

“You get people calling to say, ‘Jeez, this tank is blocking my view,’ or ‘Why would you put the tank there?’ It’s kind of amazing,” he said. “But we really don’t receive many calls. Morgan just does a superb job running the district and handling the problems.”

But for Cook, the interactions with the community and the local water district, as well as the ability to continue using his engineering knowledge was always the best part of the job.

“You become pretty obsolete as an engineer if you don’t keep it up,” he said.

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