New member sought for Snohomish County Public Utility District board

EVERETT — Snohomish County Public Utility District commissioners are taking applications to fill a vacancy on their three-member board, which oversees the agency that keeps the lights on in the area.

The seat has been empty since Jan. 1, when Commissioner Dave Aldrich’s deteriorating health forced him to resign two years into his third term. Aldrich died Jan. 16. Now, the other two commissioners — Kathy Vaughn and Toni Olson — must appoint someone to the empty position.

Five people already have applied for Aldrich’s former seat ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline.

Vaughn and Olson plan on interviewing applicants in public evening meetings around mid-February, followed by discussions of candidates and culminating in a final selection.

“I don’t think we know what the exact timing will be for those steps,” Vaughn said.

The clock is ticking. State law says that if the commissioners can’t fill a vacancy within 90 days of the resignation, that task gets kicked up to the county council. That gives Vaughn and Olson until March 31. A decision likely will come earlier, as both women said they do not want to drag out their deliberations.

Both said there is no criteria for the “right” candidate.

“I’m looking for someone who’s community-minded” and has some idea about what the PUD does, Vaughn said.

While hundreds of thousands of people receive monthly electricity bills, few seem to know much about the utility, she said. “As long as the lights are on, we don’t get a lot of attention.”

The PUD received plenty of attention in recent years because of a couple of controversies. One concerned no-bid contracts awarded to a former employee. An outside attorney hired by the commissioners largely cleared PUD staff and the former employee, but did find that they had created the appearance of a conflict of interest — a violation of district policy.

The district was again in the spotlight after a problem-plagued change in its billing system prompted upset customers to pack commission meetings.

Since Aldrich was only two years into his six-year term, the process is not as simple as appointing someone to finish the term. Whoever is selected will serve through 2018, when voters will choose a commissioner for the final two years in the term. The seat will be on ballots again in 2020, which is its next regularly scheduled election year.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

To apply

Interested in helping oversee the Snohomish County PUD?

To be eligible, candidates must be:

18 years old;

a U.S. citizen eligible to vote;

a registered voter living in Commission District 1 (which covers the county’s northern half, Everett and part of Mukilteo).

You can check if you live in District 1 at the county auditor’s website: http://bit.ly/1NQ3i4I.

To apply, submit a letter of interest including a summary of your education, work experience and a statement indicating why you are interested in or qualified for the position. Send letters to Clerk of the Board at P.O. Box 1107, Everett, WA 98206-1107.

Deadline: 5 p.m. Feb. 7

Pay: Commissioners earn $2,285 per month ($27,420 a year)

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