Your Management Team

John Sweigard - General Manager

John Sweigard joined the Merced Irrigation District as its General Manager in January 2010. Mr. Sweigard began his water management career 20 years earlier as a Night Patrolman and Distribution System Operator on MID's irrigation canals, while working to pay his way toward his degree in Ag Engineering, from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Mr. Sweigard's career has been focused on resource and public agency management from the very beginning. Prior to his hiring as General Manager at MID, he served almost 13 years as the General Manager of Patterson Irrigation District, the entirety of his tenure there. Mr. Sweigard was known for his forward thinking and for being a productive, versatile manager.

Among the many projects he undertook while managing PID was the $13 million Patterson Fish Screen Project, which resulted in the installation of a self-cleaning flat plate, positive barrier fish screen along the bank of the San Joaquin River at the intake of the District's main canal. The statewide Association of California Water Agencies - representing 440 member water agencies across California - recognized the project as the winner of the prestigious Clair Hill Award in 2012 for its innovation and benefit to the environment.

Mr. Sweigard has extensive experience working with elected boards, public relations, as well as local, state and federal agency interaction. He additionally has significant experience dealing with fishery and endangered species issues, public agency finance and administration, energy and power, engineering, construction, operations and resource conservation. At the 2009 Mid Pacific Region Water Users Conference he was recognized by his peers for his career accomplishments with the F. Gordon Johnson Memorial Achievement Award for Excellence in Operations and Maintenance.

He spent his teen years working on his grandfather's cattle operation in the Winton area and graduated from Livingston High School. Mr. Sweigard's early exposure to irrigated agriculture occurred on several planes. He witnessed a great deal on his family's dairy farm and cattle ranch. He also completed a three month stint working on a moshav in the agriculturally oriented Golan Heights area of Israel before entering high school.

Mr. Sweigard is an active member of the U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage and was elected by his irrigation profession peers to their Board of Directors in 2011. Additionally, he was a longtime board member of the San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) representing PID and northern Delta Mendota Canal federal water service contractors' interests.

He additionally worked on several committees for the SLDMWA, including the Finance and Administration Committee, and the Operations and Maintenance Committee. Further, he served on the Board of Directors of the San Joaquin Valley Drainage Authority and its Policy Steering Committee since the agency's creation.

Mr. Sweigard resides in Atwater with his wife of more than 18 years and their three teen children.


Hicham Eltal - Deputy General Manager, Water Supply/Rights

Hicham ElTal joined the Merced Irrigation District in October 1993 as a Senior Engineer with the Water Resources department and currently serves as the Deputy General Manager of Water Supply/Rights.

As Deputy General Manager of Water Supply/Rights, Mr. ElTal is responsible for MID's water storage and distribution. In this position he is responsible for administering water-resource related activities involving water rights, water quality, water supply, water marketing, and water resource development.

Mr. ElTal has more than 25 years of demonstrated experience in water resource engineering, infrastructure, design and construction, and planning and management. Over the past 17 years, he has played a key role in the success of the District's Water Resources Division.

Mr. ElTal is a registered Civil Engineer with the State of California and holds a BS in Civil Engineering from California State University, Fullerton. He is the active chairman for Merced Area Groundwater Pool Interests (MAGPI) and Merced Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP).

Mr. ElTal resides in Merced with his wife and three children and enjoys fishing on Lake McClure.


Bryan Kelly - Deputy General Manager, Water Resources

Bryan Kelly began his employment with MID in August 2004 as a Senior Engineer with the Water Resources department and currently serves as the Deputy General Manager of Water Resources.

As Deputy General Manager of Water Resources, Mr. Kelly is responsible for overseeing all of water resources engineering, construction, maintenance, operations, efficiency and planning as well as water regulatory issues including compliance and renewal of licenses, permits, and contracts. Mr. Kelly has more than 18 years of professional experience in the planning, engineering, operations and management of irrigation and municipal infrastructure systems. In his position with MID and throughout his career he has worked with numerous local, state and federal agencies on water resource related projects.

Prior to joining the MID team, he worked for 10 years at CH2M HILL, a national environmental engineering firm. During that time he served as a water resource project manager, lead engineer, staff manager and marketing lead. Between 1989 and 1994 he worked at the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans as a water treatment plant operator.

He is an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Army, having served between from 1985 and 1989.

He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of New Orleans in 1993. In 1989, Mr. Kelly obtained his Louisiana Professional Engineering license. He subsequently obtained his California Professional Engineering license in 2005 after joining MID.

Mr. Kelly is a member of the Association of California Water Agencies and the U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage.

Mr. Kelly resides in Chowchilla, CA with his wife of 25 years and has two young-adult children attending college.


  Interim Deputy General Manager, Energy Resources

Juan Sandoval joined the Merced Irrigation District in August 2016 as an Engineering and   Operations Manager with the Energy Resources department and currently serves as the interim Deputy General Manager of Energy Resources.

As Interim Deputy General Manager of Energy Resources, Mr. Sandoval is responsible for overseeing all of Energy resources engineering, construction, maintenance, electric operations, energy efficiency/public programs, transmission and distribution planning as well as energy regulatory issues including compliance and renewal of licenses, permits, and energy contracts.

Mr. Sandoval is a registered Professional Electrical Engineer with the State of California and holds a BS in Electrical-Mechanical Engineering from Universidad Autonoma de Baja California.

Prior to joining the MID team, he worked for 27 years at the Imperial Irrigation District, in Imperial Valley, California. During that time he served as Assistant Manager in the areas of Transmission Planning, Engineering, System Operations, Quality Control and Safety, Engineering and Operations General Superintendent, Resources Planning senior Engineer, Transmission Planning Senior Engineer. Mr. Sandoval also worked for 6 years at the Comision Federal de Electricidad in Baja California, Mexico as Generation Controls and Power Plant Engineer.  Mr. Sandoval is Senior Member of the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers since 1992.

Mr. Sandoval resides in Atwater, CA with his wife of 31 years and has two young-adult children. He enjoys outdoor activities.


Dipak Bhakta - Chief Financial Officer

Dipak Bhakta joined the MID management team in January 2018 and serves as the District’s Chief Financial Officer. As head of the Finance Department, he is responsible for planning, organizing and directing all accounting and finance activities of the District under direction from the General Manager. Mr. Bhakta brings more than 30 years of finance and accounting experience to the District. Throughout his career he has successfully overseen financial operations totally in the tens of billions of dollars with hundreds of employees. 

Mr. Bhakta began his career with Georgia-Pacific Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia. He was promoted several times to positions of increasing responsibility in accounting and auditing of the $12 billion forest products company. He later went on to successful positions managing assets and finance organizations in such companies as MCI, Plextor, and The Save Mart Companies, serving in top-tier oversight positions such as Vice President, Controller and Director of Finance.

Prior to joining the MID Management Team, he served as the Vice President of Finance for The Save Mart Companies based in Modesto, Ca. He was responsible for all finance functions, including accounting, internal audit, financial planning and analysis, and treasury. He had previously served as the Corporate Controller and Senior Director of Finance within the company.

Mr. Bhakta holds a Master of Science degree in Finance from Georgia State University – J. Mack Robinson College of Business. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree (with a double major in Business and Accounting) from Berry College – Campbell School of Business, and he is a CPA.

Mr. Bhakta lives in Newman with his wife of 27 years and their two children. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, coaching his son’s soccer team and playing golf.


     Vic Moreno - Director of Administrative Services

Mr. Vic Moreno joined the Merced Irrigation District as its Director of Administrative Services in January of 2017.  Mr. Moreno brought with him more than three decades of experience in human resources, management, risk management and general administration. As MID’s Director of Administrative Services, Mr. Moreno oversees the District's Human Resources, Risk Management and Information Technology functions.

Mr. Moreno has an extensive background in investigations, risk management, safety and human resources. Prior to his employment with MID, he worked for Foster Farms for 32 years serving over a decade in a Labor Relations Manager role with oversight of 3000 employees at three plants.  Prior to that, Mr. Moreno also served as the Corporate Safety Manager in the Risk Management department serving over 13,000 employees for over a decade.

In his role as MID’s Director of Administrative Services, Mr. Moreno reports directly to the General Manager and is tasked with planning, directing and coordinating all MID Human Resource and Risk Management activities. He is additionally tasked with implementing the goals, objectives, policies, procedures and priorities of MID’s Administrative Services Department.  This includes overseeing Risk Management, Information Technology and Safety programs and activities. Other duties include maintaining and developing MID employment policies and procedures, maintaining employee benefit programs and ensuring consistent and accurate reporting and compliance with federal and state regulations and standards.

Further, Mr. Moreno monitors and administers the District’s property, liability and Workers Compensation insurance programs. Additionally, he provides counseling to MID managers, supervisors and employees on the District’s personnel policies and best practices.

Mr. Moreno holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from California State University, Stanislaus, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Saint Mary's College of California and a Workplace Health and Safety Manager Certificate from UC Davis.  Mr. Moreno also maintains a certificate from the Human Resources Certification Institute as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

A lifelong Valley resident, Mr. Moreno was raised in Merced and currently resides with his wife, two sons and one daughter in Turlock, CA.  In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, being involved in his children’s activities, watching various sports, hiking, off roading and restoration of muscle cars.


Brooke Gutierrez - Director of Parks & Recreation

Ms. Brooke Gutierrez joined Merced Irrigation District as the Director of Parks & Recreation in summer of 2018. She has an extensive background in the management, maintenance and promotion of parks and recreation that spans nearly two decades.

MID operates recreation facilities on Lakes McClure and McSwain. This includes multiple recreation areas providing more than 600 campsites, fishing, boating, swimming, hiking and bicycling. Among the facilities are six boat launches and several floating marinas.

Under the direction of MID General Manager Sweigard, Ms. Gutierrez performs a variety of tasks relating to the overall planning, budgeting, marketing, operation and maintenance of the Parks Department.

The vast majority of her expertise was developed during a lengthy tenure with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Prior to beginning her service with MID, she served as a Manager of Recreation in the Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo Region. She oversaw such parks facilities as Montana de Oro and Hearst Castle. Ms. Gutierrez began her career as a peace officer with the State Parks Department in 1999.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from Southern New Hampshire University. Outside of MID, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking and traveling.


Mike Jensen- Public and Government Relations Manager

Mike Jensen joined the Merced Irrigation District in January 2011 and is the Public and Government Relations Manager in January 2011. Prior to his employment with MID, Mr. Jensen was the Communications Director for Congressman Dennis Cardoza working at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. He had also served as the Congressman's Senior Field representative in Merced County.

Mr. Jensen is responsible for developing and managing external communications for MID, while ensuring public involvement. His responsibilities include keeping the public, government entities and elected officials informed of the District's policy positions, goals and interests. He is additionally responsible for assisting in tracking legislation affecting the utility and advocating MID’s policy interests.

Mr. Jensen developed his communications, public relations and government affairs expertise during his tenure working in Congress as well as his editorial experience while working with several newspaper publications in the San Joaquin Valley. He is the recipient of two first-place environmental reporting awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Mr. Jensen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an Associate Degree of Science from College of the Sequoias in Visalia. Prior to attending college, he served in the United States Navy and was stationed at Lemoore Naval Air Station. He deployed to the Persian Gulf aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Constellation in 1994 and participated in operations to enforce the No-Fly Zone over southern Iraq.

Outside of MID, Mr. Jensen has served on a host of nonprofit boards and policy committee. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce. He has previously served as Chairman of the Merced City Recreation and Parks Commission, as well as Chair of the Resources Committee for CASA of Merced County, a nonprofit which works to improve the lives of local foster youth.


Phillip R. McMurray - General Counsel

Phillip R. McMurray joined the Merced Irrigation District as the staff General Counsel in July 2011. His services to MID include providing the legal guidance needed to protect MID's resources held in trust for its water users and ratepayers. Mr. McMurray further represents the District at administrative law hearings, regulatory law hearings and judicial proceedings. He is additionally responsible for managing special and outside counsel while maintaining a working knowledge of local, state and federal resource issues.

Mr. McMurray graduated from California State University, Fresno Magna Cum Laude in 2000. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture Business and a minor in Plant Science. He received his Juris Doctorate from Sacramento's Lincoln Law School in 2004 and was admitted to the California State Bar in June of 2005.

In 2006, he became an associate attorney with Linneman, Burgess, Telles, Van Atta, Vierra, Rathmann, Whitehurst & Keene of Dos Palos. Additionally, since 2007 he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Merced College teaching business and law oriented classes.

Mr. McMurray resides in Los Banos with his wife and three children. In his spare time he enjoys family barbecues and coaching baseball for his two sons.


 

 

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