EVERETT — Voters will decide who’ll lead the Snohomish County Public Utility District, the second largest publicly owned utility in the state.
Two of the three nonpartisan commissioner seats are on the ballot, for PUD District 1 and District 2.
The commission sets utility rates, hires a general manager and directs policy for the agency, which serves more than 350,000 electric customers in Snohomish County and Camano Island, and another 20,000 water customers.
District 1 covers the northern half of the county, and takes in Everett, Marysville, Arlington, Granite Falls and Darrington, as well as Camano Island in Island County.
The seat is currently occupied by Sid Logan, who was appointed to the post in March 2017.
Energy rates, support for low-income ratepayers and greater public oversight of the commission are among the major issues.
Logan, a retired Arlington School District executive and former petroleum engineer, is challenged by Mary Rollins, a social service provider and former business owner.
Logan said his first priority is ensuring the most efficient use of public money. That means keeping electricity and water rates low while providing reliable service, he said
“Careful budgeting is critical,” he said.
Logan backs conservation efforts to avoid the need to develop new resources, and he supports ratepayer incentives for solar panels along with PUD smartphone applications that would allow customers to more closely monitor their energy use.
If elected, Logan said he’d increase the opportunities for public participation in commission meetings, and hold budget and rate hearings in the evening and during the day.
Logan supports assistance programs for low-income seniors and families.
If elected, Rollins said she would improve public access to the commission’s decision-making process. “That’s really paramount,” Rollins said.
Although the recent selection of a CEO/general manager may have followed protocol, “it wasn’t transparent,” she said.
Rollins said she would ensure the PUD improves its relationship with low-income customers.
“Ratepayers are being told they’re going to have a shut-off without the PUD truly working with them,” she said. “The current model is not working.”
Rollins favors using more renewable resources. The utility could point the way by installing electric vehicle charging stations “right at our local PUD office,” she said.
The next District 1 commissioner will assume the duties after the election is certified at the end of November and serve the final 25 months of the six-year term.
The District 2 commissioner race has Rebecca Wolfe and David Chan vying for a seat that will be vacated by longtime commissioner Kathy Vaughn. Vaughn lost her bid for re-election in this summer’s primary.
District 2 covers the southwestern part of the county, including Edmonds and Lynnwood.
Wolfe, a conservation activist, said she would push for safer and more fiscally responsible sources of clean energy.
“Clean, for me, means something that will not pollute the air, that’s affordable and doesn’t do any more harm to our salmon streams. I’m open to new possibilities,” Wolfe said.
If elected, she would boost support for low-income ratepayers struggling with energy bills.
Wolfe backs greater transparency and would work to bring in more public participation, she said.
She said she would put the brakes on projects that aren’t thoroughly vetted, citing the $9 million hydroelectric project at Sunset Falls on the Skykomish River that was eventually scrapped after the PUD determined the energy source wasn’t needed. “I want the PUD to operate more responsibly,” Wolfe said.
On that point, Wolfe and Chan agree: They say the PUD has a history of investing in projects that lack planning or oversight.
“Those projects should produce discernible results at specific milestones — and complete funding before they launch,” said Chan, a business consultant.
If elected, Chan said he’d create a budget control system and hold management accountable.
“We need to look at our overhead expenses to see where we can save on costs,” he said.
Chan supports competitive bidding on projects, and where possible, purchasing from local suppliers — whether that’s software programs or equipment, he said.
Chan also backs a continued commitment to clean energy that would include additional electrical buses and charging stations.
The new District 2 commissioner will assume the duties Jan. 1 and serve six years.
Tuesday is Election Day.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097. Twitter: @JanicePods.
District 1 Commissioner
• Sid Logan
Experience: Engineer; public schools executive; school bus driver, commercial fisherman
• Mary Rollins
Experience: Parent family coordinator for local nonprofit; former owner of a catering company and coffee shop
District 2 Commissioner
• Rebecca Wolfe
Experience: Educator; founder and director of The Language School of Spokane; nonprofit positions
• David Chan
Experience: Fire commissioner; business consultant; business founder and owner