Women's History Month: Elizabeth George was a champion of clean water
In honor of Women’s History Month, we recognize the contributions to NID by local business leader Elizabeth L. “Betty” George.
Elizabeth was a community leader credited with bringing millions of dollars in economic development funds into the region in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
NID’s first modern water treatment plant was built on Banner Mountain near Nevada City. Funding for the $1.3 million plant was spearheaded by Elizabeth, who was serving as president of the Sierra Economic Development District (SEDD).
The water treatment plant, named in her honor, was dedicated on May 27, 1970. When it began operation, it supplied 2,200 customers.
During the Banner Mountain plant dedication, NID General Manager Clendenen noted, “It was natural to name the plant after her; she did so much,” He described Elizabeth as “a dedicated and capable person with a strong desire to serve her community.”
“She was very caring about the community,” said longtime friend Vera Koehler of Grass Valley. “She had great organizational skills. She got people to work together.”
NID’s Board Secretary Dorothy Miller recalled, “Do your homework – that was one of her favorite sayings. She didn’t have much patience for people who weren’t prepared.”
Grass Valley Planning Director Bill Roberts put it more bluntly: “She had a great ability to put the fear of God in everybody.”
After attending college, Elizabeth returned to Grass Valley and became interested in economic development. Aware of the area’s potential for growth, she recognized the need for advanced planning of water and sewer systems. In 1966, she was appointed to the Nevada County Overall Economic Development Program Committee, a citizen advisory group.
“She became very much involved in that process,” recalled Bill Roberts, who was the Nevada County planning director at the time. Roberts said Elizabeth took the lead in making application and lobbying the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) in Seattle and Washington, D.C. to gain funding for seven Nevada County projects, including sewer systems for Glenbrook Basin, Hills Flat, Truckee and Donner Summit; sewer improvements in Grass Valley; and water improvements for Donner Summit and NID.
Elizabeth’s accomplishments caused regional EDA officials to ask her to establish a local economic development district, which later became a model for other districts in the state. The Sierra Economic Development District (SEDD) was formed in 1969 and continues to serve Sierra, Nevada, Placer and El Dorado counties. She served as the organization’s first president until 1971, and then took over as the group’s executive director until 1973, when she passed away.