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PUD draws four candidates for two races

Four candidates are running for two contested seats on the Columbia River People’s Utility District Board of Directors. An incumbent and one challenger are vying for Subdivision 3, which represents St. Helens, Deer Island and Yankton.

In Scappoose’s Subdivision 1, two newcomers with diverse visions for the district are seeking a seat on the board.

Subdivision 3

Richard Simpson SIMPSON

Why I’m running: “People asked me to run again. It was ultimately my wife that said, ‘You have to run.’ Simpson said he won’t go down easy, but if he doesn’t get reelected, he “figures that’s what the good Lord intended.”

My priorities for the PUD: “Improving board communication.” Simpson has lamented management and staffing decisions made over the past year, saying they were done hastily and not all board members were kept in the loop about attorney and manager recruitment.

Rob Mathers MATHERS

Why I’m running: “Actually it was a couple of neighbors who said they thought it would be a good idea for me to run for that position. They felt things were headed in a positive direction, but things needed a little more professional opinion.”

On the series of recent management changes: “My understanding is that the interim general manager is really a very capable person and from what I’ve heard he has great support from the employees. I understand he’s been reappointed for another year. I guess I just really need to get involved and get up to speed and I can make my judgment and share that with the others.”

My priorities for the PUD: “I must say I really wasn’t terribly familiar with events the last couple of years. My neighbors indicated there’s been some challenges, but things seem to be headed in the right direction and I could perhaps help guide it. ... I would really want to support this whole history and notion of providing reliable service at very, very reasonable cost. I understand there’s some need for growth in the electricity service here. It just seems like the PUD is positioned to do that. I just would really like to be able to support the organization, the management, and the employees.”

Subdivision 1

Debbie Reed REED

Why I’m running: “I am running for the CRPUD board to keep the positive momentum going, focus on providing safe, reliable, affordable energy, and maintaining the high morale that the employees currently enjoy.”

My priorities for the PUD: “My priority will be to make sure rates stay low and the PUD continues its excellent service it provides to its customers.”

Nancy Ward WARD

Why I’m running: “I usually don’t run for things because I think I’m more effective as an observer.

“My friend Brady Preheim came to me and said, ‘Dave Baker is not running for reelection,” Ward recalled. “There’s only one other person running and we need two people to run. We don’t want just one person running for this office, it’s too important."

She and Preheim are members of Clean Columbia County, a group that aims to get the county away from its use of fossil fuels and look toward renewable sources of energy.

Ward said the group nudged her, as the only eligible member who could run for the position.

My priorities for the PUD: “Hire a permanent manager.”

Ward said if Nguyen is the most qualified candidate, he should be hired, rather than the district extending temporary contracts for him. She noted the board’s primary responsibilities are to oversee the general manager and set rates.

“They have a job description on their website,” Ward said of PUD directors. “There’s only two things board members are being asked to do. One is set rates. The majority of the people who work on the board are not experts at setting rates, so I’m going to assume they get recommendations from staff or consultants. The only other thing they are doing is hiring and supervising the general manager. That means 50 percent of their job has remained undone for the past year and half. My hope would be to find out why that has not been done, and move in a direction that would allow that to happen.”