by Jack Gibson
One hundred years ago in August 1912—three months after MMWD was chartered as the first municipal water district in California—a small group met in the Marin County Supervisors’ Chambers at the Old County Court House in San Rafael. The group’s purpose was to launch the newly created public water district. That first Board of Directors’ meeting lasted a short 30 minutes with 11 of the 13 board members present. The two most well known of the group, William Kent and Michael O’Shaughnessy, were absent, but their presence was felt in the proceeding.
The new board consisted of 13 members. Five elected members were joined by eight appointed members, one from the County and one each from Marin’s seven townships. (These appointed positions were eliminated in 1934 by the state legislature.)
In that short meeting five resolutions were proposed, and all were unanimously adopted without debate. In addition, the board hired Clarence S. Whitaker as secretary for the board and Sausalito attorney George Harlan to serve as the district’s attorney. Harlan also represented Marin in the State Assembly and had been instrumental in achieving the legislation authorizing the creation of the district. Harlan continued to serve as the district’s lawyer until his resignation in 1934.
William Kent and Michael O’Shaughnessy were the most obvious candidates for the office of board president, but the board did not appoint either. They choose Robert Trumbull of Novato instead, who was appointed to the district’s board by the County Supervisors. The decision not to choose Kent or O’Shaughnessy was made with their consent and probably their recommendation. It had been agreed that it was necessary for the top officer to be frequently in the county. Neither Kent, as a sitting member of Congress, nor O’Shaughnessy, as the engineer for the City of San Francisco, could provide the onsite time required.
The group concluded their first meeting by sending the absent O’Shaughnessy a request that he prepare an estimate of the amount of money the district might need for the first year of operation. After consideration, O’Shaughnessy estimated that $20,000 would be needed during the first year, with most of it to be spent to inventory and investigate the existing water supply and the possibilities for further development.
Also at the conclusion of that first meeting, the board directed Whitaker to publish a request for all holders of waterworks to submit to MMWD detailed and itemized proposals of sale or lease of their water rights and waterworks (document shown at right). Thus began the four-year process of assembling, from the private water companies, all the waterworks necessary to begin building the MMWD water system.