It is fair to say Steve Webb has dedicated his life to the service of others. Yet after 42 years of service with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and 32 years as a Director with Oakdale Irrigation District, Webb is now officially retired.
The Oakdale native began his trek toward retirement in December 2017 ending his tenure with OID. He signed off for the final time with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department earlier this fall.
Some might consider Webb more than a native of the 95361, still residing on the family ranch established by his family in 1884.
“We were in a farming operation and ag is the heart of Oakdale and water is the heart of ag,” Webb said of his initial involvement with OID in 1985. “I wanted to make sure that all my neighbors and people in that area got water delivered to them.”
The former OID Director went on to share OID had little money when he first joined. A fact which was of concern to him as both a leader, as well as a constituent.
“Through the course of time we sold water and did a few things that made OID stronger,” he said. “We got to a point where we could pay for our maintenance and had a yearly maintenance schedule at that point.”
Webb additionally shared that the financial stability allowed OID to pay cash for several projects which benefitted constituents, as well as taxes. When Webb left office with OID in 2017, OID had enough cash and investments to cover more than four years’ worth of Operation and Maintenance expenses.
Of the many projects and major decisions made by the Board during Webb’s tenure was the construction of a one mile tunnel, which took seven years to complete. According to Webb, the tunnel replaced a large area of the south main, which was starting to shift from the side of the mountain where it was located. The tunnel would ensure continued water flow. OID acquired enough cash revenue to be able to pay cash for the tunnel.
“You don’t want to have an unreliable water source for people in the irrigation district,” Webb said of the need for the tunnel. “That would have been very unreliable. If that went out all the people on the south side would have been without water basically.”
Earlier this fall, the tunnel was dedicated to Webb, as acknowledgement of his service, and christened as the OID Steven A. Webb Tunnel.
“It was a good surprise and a nice thing,” Webb said of learning of the honor via a phone call from OID General Manager Steve Knell. “I really don’t know how to express myself. It was such an honor to have that. It was really something.”
A man of few words and humble in his accomplishments, Webb shared serving as OID Director for so many years seemed the right thing to do not only for his personal interest but that of his neighbors as well.
“It was the last major project that the district had before Steve retired,” General Manager Knell said of the tunnel dedication decision. “It was a project that had a lot of history to it and a lot of work to it. We felt that paired up well.”
Knell went on to state that Webb’s service and decision making ability was a good balance for the constituents of the district, working with a goal to always make the best decisions for the whole district.
“When you serve that long on the board, 32 years you have a great institutional knowledge,” Knell continued. “The tunnel was a big project. We needed something of significance.”
As one might suspect, after 32 years of service, Webb is equally fond of Knell.
“OID has really good management there,” Webb stated. “Steve Knell has been just a blessing for OID.”
“All the people that work down there are just fabulous,” he added. “It’s probably one of the premiere water districts in the state now.”
Now fully retired, Webb shared what he misses most are the people, in both areas: law enforcement, as well as water.
As for his lengthy tenure with OID his reasoning was simple, stating, “I always felt like there was more that needed to be accomplished I guess.”
A ceremony for the tunnel dedication was hosted at the Gladys Lemmons Senior Center in Oakdale, with family, friends and colleagues in attendance.
“It was a great day. It was more than I could have ever thought of or asked for,” Webb said. “Just really a blessing. Oakdale’s full of great people. It’s a great community, full of great people. So this is very humbling.”