National City City Hall / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

Mona Rios, a National City councilwoman for 12 years, told Voice of San Diego Tuesday that she won’t be seeking reelection. In fact, she said she’s departing politics altogether in part, to have more time to take care of her elderly parents.  

“I think it’s time for me to allow other voices to be at the table,” Rios, 69, said.  

That means National City voters will have a mayor and two council members to vote for this November under the city’s first district-based elections. Voters will choose representatives in District 1, which covers what’s known as Old Town National City to the bayfront, and District 3 the district furthest east with a large Filipino/Asian-Pacific Islander population, which Rios represents. 

Rios signaled her departure from politics when she resigned as vice-chair of the San Diego County Water Authority on March 16. That’s second-in-command on a board making key decisions about water supplies and rising costs to the region.  

Board chair Gary Croucher, who represents Otay Water District, appointed Mel Katz, the city of Del Mar representative, to serve out the remainder of Rios’ term as vice chair at a March 24 meeting.  

Leadership appointments at the Water Authority serve a two-year term. The vice chair takes over for the chair, and the secretary takes over for the vice chair. The current secretary is Jerry Butkiewicz, one of 10 representatives from the city of San Diego, the Water Authority’s largest customer.  

Rios was the first Latina appointed as a Water Authority officer. Her departure leaves three White men in board leadership.  

Rios is the second woman to step down from an officer position at the Water Authority in two years. Christy Guerin, who represented Olivenhain Municipal Water District, resigned as vice chair in November 2020, a month after she was appointed.  

Croucher said during the Water Authority’s March meeting that he was putting together a committee to address board conduct and review how officers are elected. Another female board director called for an ethics office back in April 2021 to address alleged lobbying by the Water Authority against her vote on a controversial proposed parallel pipeline to the Colorado River.  

“The board did not have an opportunity to pose a nomination or go through any kind of process,” said Gary Arant, general manager of Valley Center Water District.  

Kim Thorner, general manager at Olivenhain Municipal Water District, said it isn’t clear what the rotation of the officers should be. There’s been what Butkiewicz called during that December 2020 meeting, an “unwritten rule” that the three officers should separately represent north, central and southern parts of the county. 

“If there are rules, they should be written,” Thorner said.  

National City Council finalized this month a transformation of its citywide election system into one based on geography or districts. Instead of councilmembers being able to live anywhere in the city and serve at-large, they must now live within the newly-drawn districts in order to run.  

A three-way race for mayor is shaping up between the current mayor, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, former mayor and Councilman Ron Morrison and Councilmember Jose Rodriguez Perez. All have filed paperwork with the city announcing they intend to run.      

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