Top (L-R): Alan Rubio, Brian Travis, Patrick Peck. Bottom (L-R): Jack Broyles Jr., Larry Jones, Mike Pivec

Top (L-R): Alan Rubio, Brian Travis, Patrick Peck. Bottom (L-R): Jack Broyles Jr., Larry Jones, Mike Pivec

Everything to know about crowded ballot for Alderwood Water District

Rising water and wastewater rates, high turnover and employee morale are some of the issues six candidates want to address.

LYNNWOOD — After a lengthy controversy over staff complaints of hostile leadership and unsustainable working conditions, two incumbents on the Alderwood Water and Wastewater District Board of Commissioners both face challenges in the primary election for positions 3 and 4.

Jack Broyles Jr. is seeking re-election to Position 3. He faces challenges from Mike Pivec and Alan Rubio. In Position 4, Patrick Peck and Brian Travis are seeking to unseat incumbent Larry Jones.

Two candidates in each race will move on to the November general election.

Last October, Alderwood’s staff union “overwhelmingly” voted no-confidence in the district’s former general manager Dick McKinley and board members. Employees accused McKinley of creating a “culture of fear” and a “hostile” work environment. McKinley reportedly forced employees to work “to the point of anguish, tears and physical pain,” district records show.

A letter sent to board members claimed the board did not take enough action in addressing the complaints about McKinley.

The board put McKinley on paid administrative leave, McKinley retired in November and was replaced with John McClellan in May.

The union has also argued the district failed to pay wages competitive enough to attract and retain talented staff, leading to vacancies. Salaries at Alderwood are within 7 percent of “midpoint” wages for similar positions on the local job market, according to the union.

Broyles, however, feels the current board has the experience needed to continue running the district.

“The board that exists right now has worked, or currently works, in the wastewater industry,” Broyles said. “We have a unique synergy and unique knowledge of wastewater utility.”

Located in Lynnwood, Alderwood Water and Wastewater is the state’s largest special purpose water and sewer district, covering 40 square miles and serving more than 200,000 people in southwest Snohomish County. Roughly 160 employees are split between four departments.

Alderwood customers pay two monthly bills for water and wastewater. Households on average pay $32.03 for water, the lowest rate in the region, according to Alderwood data. For wastewater, they pay an average of $78.47, the third-highest rate in Western Washington.

Wastewater rates are significantly higher because it is more expensive to treat raw sewage, according to the Alderwood website.

Challengers in both positions offered strategies on how they would deal with rising water rates, employee morale, high turnover and transparency.

Primary ballots went out July 16. They are due Aug. 1.

Position 3

Mike Pivec

Mike Pivec is running for commissioner again after his 2021 loss to current member Donna Cross. He took 19.5 percent in a five-way primary.

Before his retirement, Pivec worked for 12 years as an administrative services manager for the district, a position he described as a “catchall” for a variety of issues — human resources, IT, safety training and legal issues.

In his leadership role, Pivec said he learned how to better communicate with his workers through newsletters, one-on-one meetings and employee appreciation events — something he feels has been missing within the current board.

Mike Pivec

Mike Pivec

“The communication side of things in terms of employees, all that stuff died,” Pivec said. “And (the Board of Commissioners) paid a price for it.”

If he were elected, Pivec wants to strengthen the board’s working relationships with its employees and their customers. Pivec says consistent communication with the press can improve the company’s image and build trust with the public.

Pivec also believes he will be able to manage Alderwood’s budget to ensure resources are going toward water safety while maintaining reasonable costs for consumers.

“It’s all about affordable rates, clean water and providing outstanding customer service,” Pivec said. “And I think I can enhance that as a person from the inside.”

Alan Rubio

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Rubio moved in 2011 to Washington, where he quickly became acquainted with his neighbors.

One of their biggest complaints was the rising cost of their water and wastewater bills.

Rubio is an active member of the Libertarian Party..

Currently working as a manager at the contracting company BrandSafway Solutions in Everett, Rubio wants to take his industry experience to become the “eyes and ears” of Alderwood’s customers.

Alan Rubio

Alan Rubio

If elected, Rubio wants to have an “open-door policy” for employees and customers, bringing their questions or concerns directly to the board.

He said he would post monthly reports of the board’s actions on social media, including info on what changes are being made, what the board is voting on and where taxpayer money will go.

“I can’t think of anything more important than water,” Rubio said at a campaign barbecue in Wilcox Park. “I’m willing to put my experience as a manager in the private sector to work for the city, and for the sake of the customers getting a better service.”

Rubio also wants to look into ways to bring down costs of wastewater while still keeping adequate quality.

“There has to be a combination of your workers feeling good, their customers feeling happy and still make it profitable,” Rubio said. “You want to keep a check on all three.”

Jack Broyles Jr.

While Pivec and Rubio believe Alderwood needs new leadership, Broyles is confident the board’s current make-up is what the wastewater leader needs.

Appointed to the position in 2018, Broyles has worked in finance and public utilities for 16 years. The candidate described his first term as “a challenging couple of years.”

Broyles applauds the board for reportedly approving a raise for all staff, represented by the union or not, at the beginning of contract negotiations last October, acknowledging “inflationary pressures at the time.”

Jack Broyles Jr.

Jack Broyles Jr.

“Things could not have happened any quicker than they did,” Broyles said. “I don’t think there’s anything I regret.”

Broyles also works as the finance director at Alaska Wastewater and Utility.

“I’m the only finance professional out of the six candidates,” Broyles said. “Alderwood district is sophisticated enough and large enough to need somebody who understands how rates work, how public finances work, how expenses go down. I think it’s really important that somebody have that background on the board.”

Position 4

Patrick Peck

Before retiring in June, Peck worked 40 years at Alderwood, including jobs in maintenance, engineering and field operations and most recently as a manager in water distribution.

As a manager, Peck saw understaffing issues at Alderwood “firsthand.”

Peck said high turnover in recent years means fewer employees with the experience to safely operate water utilities.

Patrick Peck

Patrick Peck

“Our customers turn on their faucet and they expect to have water. They expect their wastewater to go away and be treated,” Peck said. “I don’t think a lot of customers realize what it takes to get that water and to treat that waste. It takes a lot of skilled staff, it takes a lot of technology.”

In an ideal world, Peck would have experienced workers train newcomers.

“I have plenty of time, I want to be more involved,” Peck said. “I want to be there for staff, I want to be there for the customers, just be available. I think that’s important.”

Brian Travis

With master’s degrees from Western Governors University, Travis believes his academic experience can help bring change to Alderwood leadership.

Travis believes he can bring a “new perspective” to the board to apparent “decades-old issues.”

If elected, Travis said he would livestream all board meetings, as well as permit a “90-day period of amnesty” when employees can bring direct concerns and complaints to board members.

Brian Travis

Brian Travis

The candidate advocates for customers’ to use Alderwood’s affordable water rates.

“Water does not discriminate, it arrives pure from the heavens and it is up to us we the members of the human race to protect it from corruption and impurity,” Travis wrote in an email. “The people who can accomplish that goal and have a passion for the purity of water and are the people I want working for this water district, nothing more, nothing less.”

Larry Jones

After 20 years in the water industry, Jones was first appointed to the Alderwood board in 1999 and has since served five terms.

“I’m doing it to give back to the community,” Jones said. “And since I work in the industry, I felt like I was a good candidate to contribute to the board.”

Jones says it’s been a “pretty under-the-radar” position until recently.

When employee complaints of management arose last year, Jones believes board members, including himself, could have communicated their efforts to address staff concerns more clearly.

Larry Jones

Larry Jones

Jones said McKinley was the “wrong individual” for Alderwood workers, while current manager McClellan has helped improve the culture among employees.

In his tenure, Jones highlighted his efforts to spearhead an alternative bond purchase that he said saved the company “upwards of $400,000.” He said he “spearheaded” a 34% discount for low-income, disabled and elderly discount for Alderwood customers older than 61.

“First and foremost, I’m a ratepayer,” Jones said. “Any time I talk about an issue, or thinking about an issue, or act on an issue or give input on an issue, I’m always thinking about what is in the best interest of our ratepayer.”

Maya Tizon 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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