The District leaders included below are honored for their outstanding service to the public, the community, and neighboring cities and counties of the Bay Area. Our leaders have taken extraordinary measures to protect county citizens from flooding while preserving the natural environment. They have contributed by laying the groundwork for flood prevention infrastructure throughout the District or by maintaining operational services and planning for future flood protection.
Herbert G. Crowle
Herbert G. Crowle was the first General Manager, the first Chief Engineer, and, the first employee of the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. Crowle reported to the job on January 2, 1950. He worked with a staff of six engineers from the University of California, Berkeley to create standards, rules, ideas, and concepts that would later yield a comprehensive flood control plan. Crowle believed in providing solutions, not quick fixes, to public flooding problems. As a result, Alameda County was the first county in California to develop a comprehensive flood control plan.
Crowle worked in private consulting after retiring from the Public Works Agency in the 1970s. He is now retired from engineering, but he continues to be a valuable information resource to staff at the Flood Control District
Hired in 1950, Karn was employee number four of the newly formed Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. He worked on projects that curbed once-regular flooding in Alameda County.
In the mid-1950s, Karn was assigned to Zone 7 in the Livermore-Amador Valley where flood control and a reliable drinking water conveyance system were needed. Karn successfully negotiated with the state for construction of the South Bay Aqueduct. In 1962, he became the Flood Control District’s Engineer-Manager.
Karn left to form the consulting firm Bissell & Karn, Inc. in 1966. The firm’s work at Alameda Creek and on highways and new developments in the County complemented District efforts. Karn retired in 1995. He believes that the District’s success started with good standards. “That success continues,” he says, “because the District does every project the right way.”
Shinji Momono, or “Mo” as he was known to District staff, started at the Flood Control District in 1952 as an Assistant Civil Engineer. He rose to the positions of Principal Civil Engineer, Assistant Deputy Director of Public Works, and Assistant Engineer-Manager for the District. He retired in 1985 and passed away in 1988.
Mo was an outstanding engineer. His knowledge of engineering principles and his many unique flood control design ideas, some ahead of their time, made him a District leader. His personnel file was filled with letters of commendation for his work. Mo’s co-workers and friends described him as a great guy and one heck of a Ping-Pong player.
While Mo is sincerely missed, the projects he helped to design and build continue to keep Alameda County virtually free of flooding.
Paul Lanferman joined the Flood Control District as an experienced civil engineer in 1958. His first role was inspecting pipelines, channels, dams, and reservoirs during the District’s most concentrated period of construction. He later became Chief of the Construction and Maintenance Department, then Chief Engineer and General Manager, a position he held for 17 years until he retired from the District in 1983.
He is most proud of District-built facilities linking flood control with public recreation, like Fremont’s Lake Elizabeth and parks alongside Oakland flood control channels. “Such projects could not have become reality,” he says, “without the excellent cooperation fostered between the District and city street departments, sewer districts, council members, and other community groups.”
Lanferman also recalls strong public support for assessments to fund flood control. “If you can show people the need, and show them how you can meet the need in the most efficient and cost effective way, they will agree,” he says.
H.A. “Spike” Flertzheim, Jr.
H.A. “Spike” Flertzheim, Jr. held the position of Alameda County Director of Public Works from 1977 to 1989.
As commanding officer of the San Francisco District of the Army Corps of Engineers, Flertzheim had overseen watersheds flowing to the Pacific Ocean in Northern California and portions of Oregon. His key responsibilities had been flood control and wetland preservation along with operating dams and reservoirs, building roads, and other projects. “I’d seen firsthand the problems of not having adequate flood control in Alameda County,” said Flertzheim.
His greatest challenge as Public Works Director came in 1978 with the passage of California’s Proposition 13. He knew the measure would cut Flood Control District revenues significantly, so he created a task force that launched the Benefit Assessment Program to provide steady flood control funding. The program reached the ballot in 1980 and passed by the two-thirds majority required.
Flertzheim also saw a nationwide acceptance of an environmentally-sensitive outlook on new construction and development, a practice he implemented at the County. “The Bay Area is a leader in the environmental movement. I’ve always believed you could do what was needed in an environmentally-sensitive way. It was rewarding to see people wake up to that,” he said.
Donald J. LaBelle
After serving agencies in Seattle, Fort Worth, Norman, Oklahoma, and other cities, LaBelle became the director of Alameda County Public Works in 1989. During his 17-year tenure at the County, he focused on maintaining and upgrading infrastructure, in particular the county’s transportation system, streets, and flood control system.
“In Alameda County, as in many parts of the country, infrastructure is reaching the end of its life cycle. The time had come to act so the next generation could have the systems that we’ve enjoyed. It was either that or leave a note behind saying, ‘We had the chance to preserve this and we didn’t take it,’” he said.
LaBelle was proud to work on a number of environmental advocacy and education projects including the Adopt-a-Creek program and the Tule Pond Wetland Center in Fremont. He helped foster a sense of ownership among stakeholder groups such as friends of the creeks organizations, chambers of commerce, and a variety of community groups.
In 2006, LaBelle retired and returned to his home state of Kansas.
Gerald E. Silver
For more than 32 years, Gerald “Jerry” Silver served both the Alameda County Public Works Agency (ACPWA) and the District. Eleven years before he retired in 2007, his unique skill sets led to a dual career serving as the District’s Superintendent of Pump Stations while acting as the Bridge Superintendent for the ACPWA Road Department.
Between keeping 22 pump stations and six drawbridges operating smoothly, Jerry and many in his crews were on call 24/7. His reputation grew for having an encyclopedic memory and being someone who could always be counted on to get the job done while keeping a sense of humor.
Over the years, Jerry made significant contributions to the development of the District’s pump station operations. He helped develop and implement a formal pump maintenance program to keep pump equipment in good repair to operate longer and more efficiently.
Between 1999 and 2005, Jerry played an important role in developing and implementing the Pump Station Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) for remote operation and alarm monitoring of 21 facilities throughout the County.
Said Jerry, “The best reward I could ever receive for my work has been the respect and fellowship of my peers.”