In years past, the election of commissioners to the Snohomish Public Utilities District could be a sleepy affair, only drawing attention when rate increases brought ire from electricity customers and challengers against board incumbents.
Snohomish PUD rates have remained unchanged for the last three years, yet the races for its board of commissioners have continued to draw a healthy slate of candidates in recent elections. That interest in the county-wide Everett-based utility district may point to a growing public concern about not only the cost and availability of electricity but also the environmental considerations for its sources and the other infrastructure needs in the county.
Now marking its 71st year, the PUD serves more than 350,000 customers. The Bonneville Power Administration’s largest public utility customer, the PUD has provided about 98 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources — primary hydropower — long before state lawmakers set a 100 percent clean-energy mandate last year.
As the District 1 commissioner, Sid Logan has served on the board for three years. He was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2017, then won election in 2018 for the seat’s remaining two years. Logan and his three challengers are running for the position’s full six-year term.
The four candidates:
Logan, who has an engineering background, worked for several years with the Arlington School District as its operations manager from 2008 until his retirement in 2016.
Bruce King, also of Arlington, is making his third run for the board. A pig and cattle farmer, King has worked previously as a software engineer for Microsoft.
Rob Toyer is a Marysville financial adviser and tax preparer and served on the Marysville City Council from 2011-19 and on that city’s fire district board of directors. Toyer, a Marine Corps veteran, ran last year for the county treasurer’s office, losing to Brian Sullivan by less than 1 percentage point.
Charles Cheshvan Sias is retired from Boeing as an aviation maintenance technician and an Army veteran. Sias declined to participate in a joint interview.
While Snohomish PUD is a leader in terms of its lighter carbon footprint, achieving the 100 percent goal while maintaining affordable rates could be a challenge, which Logan, King and Toyer recognized. All three are supportive of PUD efforts, in particular the Arlington microgrid and community solar array providing a strong example. King, however, questions its relatively high electricity costs and that the PUD didn’t look to install solar panels on building roofs rather than on public land. Logan, despite the solar program costs, notes that it quickly sold out units in the program with more on a waiting list.
As he did two years ago, King said he wants quicker action from the PUD on work to provide broadband internet service, particular to under-served rural areas. PUDs can’t provide the service themselves, but some public utilities in the state have invested in infrastructure that is then leased to public or private providers. Logan said the PUD is now working with communities, including Camano Island and Darrington on broadband projects. Toyer also expressed support for such work.
Two years ago, the editorial board initially endorsed King in the primary election, noting his desire to provide a dissenting voice on the board. When King did not advance to the general election, the board endorsed Logan for the seat, noting his commitment to ratepayers and in providing financial assistance to low-income families.
Since the 2018 election, the board’s dynamics have changed with the election of Rebecca Wolfe, who now provides an experienced voice on environmental issues.
Considering Logan’s three years on the board and a good balance of experience and leadership now among its three members, Logan should earn the support of voters for a full six-year term.