Voters will be deciding two Snohomish County Public Utilities District Board of Commissioner races during the Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 general election, with challengers for each position running strong in the August primary.
While South County voters only saw candidates for the District 2 commissioner position in the August 2018 primary, they will vote for both the District 1 and District 2 commissioners in the November general election. The Snohomish County Public Utility District includes all of Snohomish County plus Camano Island.
Challengers for both PUD Commission District 1 and 2 spots ran strong races in August. In the District 2 race, two of them– educator and environmentalist Rebecca Wolfe from Edmonds and South County Fire and Rescue Commissioner and business consultant David Chan of Everett — beat 24-year incumbent Kathy Vaughn in the primary to advance to the general election.
Wolfe received 31 percent of the vote (15,007 votes) while Chan earned 28 percent (13,705 votes). Vaughn received 13,507 votes, or just under 28 percent. The remaining 11 percent of votes were divided between two other primary challengers.
In the District 1 race, incumbent Sid Logan of Arlington — a retired school district operations director who also served as a Shell Oil company engineer — got 31 percent of the votes (14,602) while challenger Mary Rollins — a social service provider and former business owner — received 30 percent (14,364). The remaining votes were divided between Bruce King (13,227 or 28 percent) and Sam Buchanan (5,378 or 11 percent).
What follows is a summary of responses to our questions that we submitted to candidates for Position 1. Position 2 candidate summaries can be found in a separate story.
PUD Commissioner District 1: includes Everett, Marysville, Stanwood, Arlington, Granite Falls, and unincorporated areas near those municipalities.
What are your qualifications?
I have served as a PUD Commissioner since March 2017 after being appointed from a pool of 25 interviewed applicants. I have a B.S. degree in engineering and worked 14 years as an engineer. I most recently worked 15 years for the Arlington School District,; five as a school bus driver, two as the transportation director and eight as the executive director of operations.
I have taken every opportunity to educate myself about our utility, the industry, regional power and regional transmission issues. I meet with local, state and federal officials to ensure that our issues are heard.
As the executive director of operations for a school district, I learned the role of a public board and the role of the staff who support a board. As a commissioner, my chief responsibility is to be future focused, working with my fellow commissioners to set the course for the organization, provide water and power reliably for the lowest costs, and to ensure stewardship of the public’s investments.
The PUD is a community partner. I have been very involved in my community, serving twice as a PTA president; Dollars for Scholars board member; Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce vice president, secretary, and board member; and Arlington ACE president. I have also served on committees for ballot measures to support our local hospital, schools, firefighters and library.
Why are you running for office? How will being elected to this role help you fulfill personal ambitions?
When I worked as the executive director of operations for the Arlington School District, the Snohomish PUD provided the district with multiple grants to improve the efficiency of the lighting in all of the schools and support buildings. After a number of years of grant-supported projects, the annual savings exceeded $50,000. I was impressed with how the PUD helps its customers save money on utility bills. I had recently retired from the school district when the PUD Commission announced it was seeking applicants to fill a vacancy. Having been so impressed with the organization, I applied along with 24 others. The commission interviewed all 25 applicants, and after a second interview, offered me the position. Once on the commission, I found that my experience serving a school board, serving the public, my education as an engineer, and my passion for clean energy and energy conservation was a good fit for the PUD and for me. It’s a great organization to work with, at an exciting time in the industry.
I am running to retain my seat to see my vision come to fruition. PUD commissioners are non-partisan positions and I have no ambitions to run for other offices. I am dedicated to the PUD.
What hot-button issues under the PUD’s jurisdiction are important to you? What is the current PUD doing well? If elected, what will you change?
There are two two important issues for me. 1) ensuring that we are providing reliable power and water for the lowest cost possible and 2) preparing our utility for the future.
As the newest commissioner, I have been asking the hard questions and challenging the status quo through the eyes of a fellow customer. We made significant progress in controlling costs last year by switching to zero based budgeting. Zero based budgeting is the process of building a budget from the ground up, justifying all expenditures instead of building a budget based on the previous year’s expenditures. Additional fiscal benefits will come from aligning the work of all departments to ensure that all employees are working collaboratively toward a common vision.
I am excited about a future of electric cars, battery walls, increased solar deployment and other forms of distributed generation. I want to ensure that our utility has the programs and infrastructure in place to support these trends. I also want to ensure that the PUD continues to meet its conservation targets so that new growth does not result in constructing additional generation.
What is the current PUD doing well?
The PUD’s power is 98 percent carbon-free. The PUD is a leader in energy conservation measures, helping homeowners, renters, businesses, schools, churches, cities and industrial customers save energy. Each year, PUD staff exceed conservation targets set by the commission. Energy efficiency enables the PUD to serve more customers every year without increasing load.
The PUD also provides excellent customer service and the staff are proud to serve the public.
If elected, what will you change?
I will continue to work on four fronts: working with the commission, CEO and staff to have a clear direction for the organization; controlling the PUD’s costs; making sure that we don’t leave seniors and low-income residents out in the cold, and by promoting electrification.
Clear Direction: I work with my fellow commissioners to establish a clear vision and direction for the utility including fiscal and cost management; environmental stewardship; providing value to our customers; system reliability; continuous improvement and planning for the future.
Controlling Costs: We must ensure that we are always spending your dollars wisely.
Families matter: I am a strong advocate for our financial assistance programs for low-income seniors and struggling families. Last year we provided $6.4 million in direct assistance and coordinated an additional $1.9 million of assistance with other agencies.
Electrification: Electrification is when industries move from fossil fuels to electricity. Our power is generated 98 percent carbon free, and our utility is perfectly poised to sell more clean power for charging electric cars, buses, port cranes and WSDOT’s planned hybrid ferries. Electrification is good for our utility and the environment. Increased sales help keep rates low, and our clean power is displacing fossil fuel use.
What concerns and questions have PUD constituents and stakeholders been sharing with you?
I talk to many customers and almost all are very satisfied with the work of the PUD and relate positive interactions with meter readers, customer service representatives, and line crews.
Many customers ask me about adding solar power to their homes, which I support.
Many people don’t realize the PUD is run by an elected board, so the most asked question is “what do PUD commissioners do?” I explain my role in representing their interests.
Some customers in rural areas are concerned with outages. I describe PUD’s work to improve system reliability and to decrease outage duration.
Many residents are concerned about carbon emissions and green power, and are happy to hear that our power is 98 percent carbon free and that we are working to build a community solar project.
If particular groups or organizations support your candidacy, please share who they are and why they support you:
I am proud to have the support of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77. This union represents a substantial number of PUD employees. The union supports me because they are encouraged by the current direction of the organization with regard to employees at all levels being involved in collaboratively working to improve safety, to improve work processes, and to improve outcomes for the public. I believe that removing obstacles and working collaboratively across departments and levels will result in the PUD’s best service to the public.
I have a Master’s degree in Policy from the University of Washington. I am a former catering company and coffee shop owner. I am a public speaker and community organizer. I also have a documentary film certificate from the University of Washington. I am a caregiver and also work for a social service non-profit.
Why are you running for office?
My personal ambition goes along with the motivation and the reason I am running for this office in particular. After working in the social service sector for a year and seeing first hand how folks are suffering in this economy, I saw this position as chance to get in and do some permanent good. The agencies that are helping vulnerable populations are struggling to keep up with the help they provide. The PUD, while providing some assistance to some customers, is probably scratching the surface of the help that is needed. If elected, I can help to change the culture from the inside out, rather than putting outside pressure on a utility that has been thinking status quo is enough.
What hot-button issues under the PUD’s jurisdiction are important to you?
It appears that the PUD is responsible to ratepayers, but the reality is that decisions are made with other considerations. For instance, the hiring of a new general nanager with a 10-year contract that the general public is opposed to, when a new board will be in place by the beginning of the year. No-bid contracts, starting and stopping projects that waste millions of dollars. More emphasis on conservation and becoming 100 percent clean energy in our portfolio. There is much to be admired about the PUD and the things that work well would stay in place.
What concerns and questions have PUD constituents and stakeholders been sharing with you?
Constituents and stakeholders are very concerned about smart meters, business practices and the pushing through of the new GM.
If particular groups or organizations support your candidacy, please share who they are and why they support you?
I am being supported by the Washington Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club as well as democratic groups and Snohomish Indivisible. They support me because they want someone in office that is transparent and who cares about people and the environment.