EVERETT — Craig Collar, the general manager and CEO of the Snohomish Public Utility District the past three years, will retire this fall.
Collar, 54, who joined the PUD as a senior manager in 2006, informed district commissioners in a special board meeting Wednesday morning.
“It has been my great pleasure and privilege to work with the PUD’s outstanding employees to serve our customers,” Collar said in response to an email. “I am retiring to spend more time with my family, and I know that the utility will continue to carry out its important work with excellence.”
Collar intends to return to Montana where he grew up and attended college, and where several family members still live.
His retirement is effective Oct. 1. His last day in the office, however, will be June 29 as he plans to use up time off and sick leave he’s accrued, a district spokesman said.
A national search will be conducted for his replacement. There is no projected date for a new CEO to be hired. Commissioners intend to appoint an interim leader by the end of June.
“PUD customers have benefited greatly from Craig’s expertise amid an increasingly complex energy industry,” said Kathy Vaughn, president of the three-member board of commissioners. “His many contributions have helped reinforce our continued commitment to conservation, financial prudence, renewable resources, safety, customer service and ongoing improvements to system reliability.”
Commissioners chose Collar in August 2015 to succeed Steve Klein as leader of the second-largest publicly owned utility in the Pacific Northwest and 12th-largest in the nation in terms of customers served. At the end of 2016, the Snohomish PUD had 341,109 customers, roughly 1,000 employees and $640 million in operating revenues.
In a release, Collar is credited with playing “an instrumental role” in securing multimillion-dollar grants and forging partnerships with universities and research organizations as the utility sought to develop new renewable energy resources.
It also cites Collar’s efforts to improve on-the-job safety of employees, which has resulted the utility cutting its injury rate to half of what it was in 2015. It is now at its lowest level in nearly 30 years, according to information from the district.
There was a work-related tragedy in his tenure. In 2016, a 61-year-old worker fell about a dozen feet from a mezzanine at the PUD warehouse and died a few days later. The state investigated, determined the mezzanine was missing part of its guardrail and imposed fines on the PUD.
And, the district commission handled some difficult decisions on Collar’s watch.
Last week, the commission voted to abandon efforts to build a controversial hydroelectric power plant on Sunset Falls near Index. Forecasts showed that with conservation efforts of customers the utility district would not need additional energy from the project, spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.
Collar began his PUD career as a senior manager for the energy resource development program. He had previously worked for Kimberley-Clark Corp. in Everett.
In late 2012, he was promoted to assistant general manager of power, rates and transmission management. In that role, he managed the PUD’s rates, resource planning and development, power and transmission contracts, rates, energy risk management, and load forecasting.
He earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Montana State University. After college, he joined the U.S. Navy, serving as an officer on a nuclear submarine during his service from 1983 to 1990.