News & Events

2023 Spotlight on Excellence Award Recipient Scott Taylor Is Changing Lives Through Public Service

Image: Scott Taylor (right) of Lamont Public Utility District with consultant engineer Curtis Skaggs (left).

The CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence is an annual, peer-nominated award that highlights the outstanding contributions of California’s public-sector workforce.

A Leader Worth Celebrating: Scott Taylor’s Historic Grant Win Provides Safe, Affordable Drinking Water for Central Valley

Lamont Public Utility District (PUD) General Manager Scott Taylor (pictured above on the right) accomplished what many thought impossible — turning a troubled public agency into an example of transparency, trust, and stability, along with securing State Water Board grant funding (PDF) for critical repairs and upgrades needed to provide safe, affordable drinking water for Central Valley residents.

Lamont PUD delivers water and sewer services to a historically disadvantaged community of 20,000 residents about 15 miles southeast of Bakersfield. The unincorporated Kern County community, surrounded by oil wells and almond orchards, has encountered the cancer-causing carcinogen 1,2,3-trichloropropane in its groundwater. Its neighboring community — El Adobe — has suffered severely contaminated water due to decaying wells, leading some residents to rely on bottled water. They’ve been waiting nearly a decade to consolidate with Lamont.

On top of water quality issues, Lamont PUD has faced frequent changes in management — 12 different general managers in 11 years — and employee embezzlement charges. Taylor stepped in seven years ago with a vision to provide sustainable, safe drinking water and ensure better working conditions for staff. “[Taylor] knew what the issues were, and he’s been a fierce advocate for this community to get the type of services they deserve,” said Kern County Supervisor David Couch.

Driving Forces: Honor, Integrity, and Loyalty

Taylor considers honor, integrity, and loyalty to be his driving forces. His employees say he doesn’t give lip service to an issue or expect someone to take on tasks he isn’t willing to do himself. “He’s that guy that no one actually gives much recognition to, but does so much behind the scenes,” said Lamont PUD Administrative Assistant Laticha Harris. “He deserves for someone to see how hard he’s worked in turning this district around.”

Taylor’s hard work paid off earlier this year, when he secured $31 million in combined grants — the first in the agency’s 80-year history — from the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) drinking water program for infrastructure improvements that will ensure a reliable, clean water supply for generations to come.

“What Scott did was amazing,” said colleague Raul Barraza Jr. of the nearby Arvin Community Services District. “He has a $31 million grant with no payback to the state — that’s unheard of. Basically, what he did was create a brand-new water district. This community is set for the next 80 years.”

With the first phase of the project, an emergency replacement well, already complete, Lamont’s water continues to meet safety standards. Residents don’t have to rely on bottled water for their day-to-day needs. “There was a lady several years ago who said she couldn’t drink the water; she didn’t feel it was safe. I personally went to her house and drank the water out of the faucet,” said Taylor. “There’s nothing wrong with the water; here’s testing [to prove it]. She drinks out of her faucet now.”

Remaining funds will be used to build three new drinking water wells and a water treatment system — replacing three approximately 60-year-old wells nearing the end of their lifespan — and allow for the construction of a new water distribution system for the nearby El Adobe community, which will be connected to Lamont PUD through the installation of a 10-inch transmission main and water meters.

Despite his accomplishments, Taylor is still quite humble and credits his success to the team he helps lead. “It’s not what I’ve done, it’s what we’ve done. I’m just steering the boat. I’m very proud of what WE have done here — we’ve done well.”

We’re Proud to Serve Those Who Serve California

Taylor’s achievements were recognized during the Spotlight on Excellence Award presentation at the 24th Annual CalPERS Educational Forum. We applaud his achievements and celebrate the power of public service to transform lives. Thank you to all those, like Taylor, who’ve dedicated their careers to serving California.