Mike Kotch, Community Activist
By Patti Shea
Signal Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
ormer Newhall County Water District board member and local environmentalist Michael Kotch died Sunday in his Castaic home.
Kotch was active in local politics and was perhaps best known for co-founding the environmental watchdog group Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment. He was 52.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's Department hadn't conducted an autopsy as of press time, but it is speculated that a heart attack was the cause of death.
Kotch was elected to the NCWD board of directors in November 1995 as the top vote-getter. He served as the district's representative on the Castaic Lake Water Agency board of directors from January 1996 to January 2001.
Kotch's friends remembered him Monday as an intelligent, kind person who never turned down a challenge.
Fellow SCOPE officer and NCWD board member Lynne Plambeck found Kotch's body when she went to pick him up for church on Sunday.
"I finally talked him into going to church," Plambeck said. "He really seemed excited about that. Maybe he had a premonition."
Plambeck said she tried calling Kotch early that morning, but didn't get an answer. She called back a few hours later and Kotch still didn't pick up.
She drove out to Kotch's house, where she found him on the couch.
"He must have just slipped away," Plambeck said.
Plambeck shared duties with Kotch as the co-chairs of SCOPE for the past few years. They were friends for 12 years, she said.
"We lost a very kind and gentle soul," she said. "I feel like I lost a brother."
SCOPE co-founder Allan Cameron agreed.
"He was an absolute master in many areas of the human endeavor," Cameron said.
Cameron said he spoke Saturday with Kotch, who said he was feeling under the weather.
"I told him he was the brother I always wished I had," he added.
Kotch graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in aerospace engineering.
The long-time Castaic resident was also an elected member to the city of Santa Clarita Formation Committee.
Formation committee chair Carl Boyer said Kotch's efforts were pivotal to the city's ultimate secession from Los Angeles County.
"He was invaluable to the incorporation committee," Boyer said. "More than 50 percent of Castaic signed petitions as a result of his efforts."
Kotch's water board colleagues said he was always prepared for every meeting.
"Mike was a very good director," CLWA Board President Don Froelich said. "He really had the best interest of the Santa Clarita Valley in mind on the issues."
Froelich said that, although he may not have always agreed with Kotch on some issues, Kotch never made it personal.
"I liked the professional way and uniqueness he could point out his opinion, without personally engaging the board," he added.
Plambeck said Kotch's greatest contribution to the SCV was his love for the Santa Clara River.
"He wanted to have room for everyone: the people and the creatures," she said. "He wanted our valley to keep its natural resources. He worked really hard to make those things happen."
Kotch applied recently to fill a vacant seat on the NCWD board, which is expected to be filled by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors next week.
Information on funeral arrangements was unavailable Monday.
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