Meet the PUD’s ‘Candidate D’: He’ll get the $390,244 top job

John Haarlow, the assistant general manager of the utility, was chosen to be the new chief executive.

John Haarlow

John Haarlow

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Public Utility District has chosen a finalist from within to run the utility.

Until Tuesday, John Haarlow was merely known as Candidate D, one of four unnamed finalists.

The three-member PUD commission offered him a contract Tuesday that pays a base salary of $390,244 a year. It still must take a formal vote at an Oct. 1 meeting.

Haarlow joined the PUD in February 2017 and is its assistant general manager. He has three decades in the electric utility industry and, if approved, could begin his new job Oct. 8.

His identity was revealed before a standing-room crowd at Tuesday’s PUD meeting. In the course of the afternoon, more than a dozen people voiced their displeasure at what they described as the commission’s lack of transparency in the hiring process and the appearance that the board is rushing its decision ahead of the November election.

Two of the board’s three seats are up for grabs.

Among those who took the podium, most asked the board to delay the hiring process until January, after the election results are tallied.

Kathy Vaughn’s six-year term as PUD District 2 commissioner ends this year. Vaughn was defeated in the primary by challengers Rebecca Wolfe and David Chan.

Commissioner Sid Logan, who was appointed, faces challenger Mary Rollins. They’ll vie to complete the final two years of a six-year term.

Wolfe, Chan and Rollins asked that the process be put on hold until January.

Vaughn stressed that the board had followed the law in its quest for a CEO. It’s been the board’s policy for years to protect the confidentiality of applicants, she said.

The search for a new CEO, which began in May, yielded more than 40 applications. That was whittled to 20 by Colorado-based Mycoff, Fry & Prouse, a recruiting firm hired to help fill the job.

“None of the candidates were willing to have their names made public,” Vaughn said. “They don’t want to jeopardize the job they’re in.”

Steve Keeler, of Edmonds, spoke in support of the hiring procedure. He challenged those who hadn’t attended recent meetings, but chose to make “an 11th hour appearance.”

“I was here in April and then in May when they held discussions about the next CEO,” Keeler said. He urged commissioners to go “ahead with the process.”

In a letter addressed to the board, Stanwood City Councilman Kelly McGill said that “with the primary election behind us, it is clear, the face of the new board will be changing.”

McGill requested it “suspend its search until January.”

Anne Spangler, the interim acting CEO “is an extremely capable” leader who can hold down the fort until then, McGill said. He added that “the selection of the next CEO/GM is anything but routine.”

The CEO/general manager position opened up when Craig Collar announced plans in mid-April to retire this fall. He’d been CEO for three years.

In May, the commission launched a nationwide search for a successor.

After a closed-door meeting Sept. 7, commissioners Vaughn, Logan and Tanya “Toni” Olson publicly named “Candidate D” as their top choice from a roster of finalists referred to as candidates “A, B, C and D.” The board then authorized board President Vaughn to negotiate a proposed contract with the candidate.

Haarlow, who was seated at the back of the room during the proceedings, said afterwards he was “honored and really humbled” to have been chosen. “I really look forward to working with the PUD’s extraordinarily capable employees and to guide the utility.”

The PUD is the 12th largest publicly owned electric utility in the United States. It serves about 349,000 electric customers and 20,300 water customers across a service area that includes Snohomish County and Camano Island. In 2016, it had $640 million in operating revenues.

The board’s next meeting is Oct. 1.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods.

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