Longtime PUD commissioner faces 2 challengers

EVERETT — Two candidates with engineering backgrounds say their experience will come in handy should either of them get elected to the Snohomish County Public Utility District Commission.

Eric Teegarden, 43, of Brier, and David Swanson, 50, of Mukilteo, are running against veteran commissioner Kathy Vaughn for the district in southwest Snohomish County. First elected in 1994, Vaughn, 62, who lives in Lynnwood, is seeking a fourth six-year term and has been in office longer than any PUD commissioner in the past 50 years, according to the utility.

Since each of the challengers works for a company that has done work for the PUD, their occupations also raise questions about how either would handle a potential conflict of interest if elected.

Teegarden is a designer and sales consultant for Northwest Wind and Solar of Seattle — one of the companies with which the PUD works to install solar panels through its incentive program for customers.

Swanson is an engineer and part-owner for Reid Middleton of Everett. The company has done some contract work for the PUD, including designing the remodeling of its operations center.

Teegarden said one of the reasons he’s running for the commissioner post is to expand the PUD’s solar program. If elected, “I’ve already promised to recuse myself from all work in Snohomish County and Camano Island,” he said.

He did not say if he would refrain from votes on solar programs that could benefit his company, which could in turn benefiting him indirectly.

“I wouldn’t be favoring my company over anyone else,” he said. “I’m going to make sure I’ve got those things clearly demarcated before I become commissioner.”

Teegarden said he’s asked for an opinion from Anne Spangler, the PUD’s attorney. Spangler confirmed that she has spoken with Teegarden and said she expects to have an opinion ready by early next week.

Teegarden also ran against Vaughn for the Snohomish County PUD commissioner in 2006. He’s previously run once for city council in Brier and twice in Mountlake Terrace.

Swanson said if he’s elected his company would not do any business with the PUD while he’s in office. He said he’s discussed the issue with his partners and they’re in agreement. The PUD, he said, “is not a huge client of ours.”

Vaughn said she’s proud of the work the PUD has done in conservation and renewable energy exploration and she hopes to help it continue.

She said the PUD “has been a leader in the conservation movement since the 1980s and we have continued to pursue that along with new resources. We were green before it was ‘in’ to be green.”

Teegarden said electric cars are the wave of the future and more home-based solar power will be needed to keep up.

“I think I have a much stronger background in terms of understanding the civil engineering technology we have for renewable energy systems,” said Teegarden, who said he formerly worked as an engineer for the city of Seattle.

Swanson said the fact he has done some work for the PUD in the past “gives me some insight into what they do and what they manage.”

He said the PUD has been doing a good job but that Vaughn has been in office too long and it’s time for a change.

“It seems like we should have that (service on the commission) better distributed throughout our community,” he said.

Vaughn said her experience is an asset. Bond rating companies “prefer to have stability and to know who they have as commissioners,” she said.

The PUD has been studying building a micro-dam at Sunset Falls on the Skykomish River. Teegarden said he’s strongly opposed to the idea.

The Sunset Falls dam would cost between $110 million and $170 million, according to the PUD’s preliminary estimates. For $150 million, Teegarden said, the PUD “could install 4-kilowatt solar systems on 10,000 homes.”

Swanson said he’s studying the Sunset Falls issue and hasn’t yet formed an opinion.

Vaughn said the PUD is still studying it as well.

“You have to gather enough information to make a justifiable decision one way or the other and we don’t have that information yet,” she said. “We’re trying to do our due diligence before we make our decision.”

Bill Sheets: 339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

What’s at stake

A six-year term representing southwest Snohomish County on the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s Board of Directors. The position pays a flat $1,800 per month, with a $104 per diem added for doing PUD business on any part of a day, capped at $14,560 for the year. The total maximum amount that can be earned by a commissioner in a year is $36,160.

David Swanson

Age: 50

Residence: Mukilteo

Experience: Civil and structural engineer and part-owner of Reid Middleton, Inc. of Everett; 25 years experience in civil engineering; part-time lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington

Website: None

Eric Teegarden

Residence: Brier

Age: 43

Experience: Six years working as a renewable energy systems designer and sales consultant (solar, wind and geothermal) 2006 to present; former civil engineer, city of Seattle; energy chairman of Sierra Club Snohomish Group 2007 to present

Website: www.ericteegarden.com

Kathy Vaughn

Residence: Lynnwood

Age: 62

Experience: Snohomish County PUD commissioner, 18 years; member, American Public Power Association’s policymakers council; 31 years in mortgage business, including ownership of Goldmark Financial Corporation, Lynnwood, since 1994

Website: Under construction

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