​SUD Commissioner Election: Meet the Candidates

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Three area residents are vying for a seat on the board of commissioners of the Sewanee Utility District of Franklin and Marion Counties: Beeler Brush, Doug Cameron, and WJ “Railroad Bill” Crescenzo. Read on to learn about the candidates’ credentials and position on important SUD issues. SUD customers may vote through Jan. 28 at the SUD office during regular business hours.

Beeler Brush

Reflecting on the wisdom of an arrangement between SUD and the University providing for use of water from Lake Dimmick in a drought emergency, Beeler Brush said, “Without water we’re all in trouble. I would hope something could be worked out.”

Brush described himself as “very much a people person.”

After graduating from the University of the South, Brush taught high school for several years then returned to Sewanee for a 17-year career in fundraising for the University in roles ranging from annual fund director to major gift director.

“At one point I had 22 people working with me. In fundraising, there is more than one group to keep happy. Obviously the donors, but also the volunteers working with you.”

Brush left Sewanee to assume the position of vice president at Hampden-Sydney College, the 10th oldest college in the nation.

After retiring, Brush returned to Sewanee.

Commenting on the diverse water supply practices employed in different regions, Brush acknowledged he has much to learn about SUD’s methods.

“I understand I’ll have to take a course if I’m elected to the seat of SUD commissioner. I’ll be glad to.”

Brush formerly served on the board at Montgomery Bell Academy and on the boards of other nonprofit institutions. About his decision to seek a seat on the SUD board, Brush said, “Volunteering your time to do something that really matters is its own reward. You do it because you want to, not for any other reason.”

Doug Cameron

Asked to discuss issues confronting SUD, Doug Cameron said, “Providing good clean water at a decent price is what it’s all about.” Cameron stressed the importance of preplanning for the next drought and pursuing negotiations with the University about the use of Lake Dimmick in a drought emergency.

“The way the law reads, commercial customers are disconnected first, so the University would have to send the students home. It is to the University’s advantage to work with us. During the 2007 drought, we were down to 60 days of water left. We need to be ready to put the pipe in the ground.”

Cameron has lived in Sewanee his entire life, except for his student years at Harvard and the brief time, post-college, when he and his wife Anne were campground guides.

He previously served two four-year terms on the SUD board, five of those years as president. During his tenure, SUD weathered the 2007 drought and built a new water plant.

Cameron was a founding member of Housing Sewanee, Inc., and the South Cumberland Land Trust. He is currently involved with Blue Monarch and the Sewanee Black History Project. He recently renewed his EMT certification and has 47 years of service with the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department.

“It is good the SUD commissioner race is contested,” Cameron said, “and good that people are more involved. We just assume water is going to be there coming out of the tap. We don’t think about what it takes to make that happen.”

WJ “Railroad Bill” Crescenzo

Since moving to Sewanee in 1979, WJ “Railroad Bill” Crescenzo’s has helped usher in changes dramatically impacting local people’s lives.

A founding member of the Tennessee Recycling Coalition and founding director of the Sewanee Recycling program, Crescenzo participated in Governor Ned McWherter’s Solid Waste Roundtable. Subsequent legislation mandated convenience centers in each county.

Crescenzo served five terms on the Save Our Cumberland Mountains board, two as vice president. He helped block local hazardous waste incinerators and, in a private legal action with two other landowners, blocked floating chip mills on the Tennessee River determined to cause “devastating environmental damage.”

Crescenzo’s moniker “Railroad” stems from his years as a freight conductor on the Penn-Central Railroad. Locally, he worked for the University as a lab supervisor for the Physics Department and technical adjunct for the Forestry and Geology Departments.

Crescenzo also served on the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department and is currently a member of the Senior Citizens’ Center board.

Born in the Bronx, Crescenzo visited his mother’s Mississippi family during the summers. He credits his open-mindedness to his mixed urban and rural roots.

Asked his opinion on SUD drawing water from Lake Dimmick in a drought emergency, Crescenzo said, “It depends on the deal SUD can make with the University and how much the University wants to charge, as well as the cost of the pipeline and pumps. The pipeline could be a tremendous expense.”

“I listen to all sides of an issue,” Crescenzo said. “The ultimate course of action may require modifications and compromises.”