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Public Utility District Commissioners ensure the rates and charges for electrical utilities, make them available to all areas in the district, as well as oversee the operations of the PUD.

There are currently five candidates running for the position including Rick Catlin, Jim Henderson, Ron V. Mitchell, Patrick Kelleher and Tom Morris. Voters have until Aug. 4 to return their ballots.

On July 16, the League of Women Voters of Kittitas County hosted a forum through video chat. Each candidate was in attendance, with the forum moderated by Katherine Murphy.

Each candidate had 60 seconds to introduce themselves and give an overview of their plans if elected. Three questions were asked to all candidates and they had 90 seconds to respond to each question. Closing statements followed, for which candidates were allowed 60 seconds.

The questions were:

1. What experiences and education make you suitable for this position and why are you running?

2. Customers are increasing their use of renewable energy, which results in lowered demand for the electricity the PUD sells. This forces the utility to increase prices. How will you balance support for renewable energy with a balanced PUD budget?

3. As the price of wholesale power goes up, what role should the PUD play to assure consumers receive electricity at a minimum rate?

Responses

Rick Catlin is lifelong resident of the Kittitas Valley whom has owned his own electrical construction business for over 30 years. He has worked with the PUD, City Light and Puget Sound Energy. He said he knows how they work and how they should work.

He said his experience as a business owner will help him balance the PUD budget and will be able to fully understand the situation regarding renewable energy until he is in the position.

Catlin believes the PUD should have its own engineer and do less outside contracting. He said if more is done “in house” there would be more control, which would lower costs and streamline the process.

Jim Henderson said his 20 years of experience with the Washington State Department of Transportation would transfer well to the position of PUD commissioners. He said he is very experienced with working with the government.

Regarding the increasing utility prices as results of increased use of renewable energy, Henderson would examine the budget and prioritize. He said the PUD should look at the whole picture to ensure they are effectively managing resources and personnel.

He described himself as a “plug and play” individual, whose background fits well with the PUD.

Ron V. Mitchell said he is a lifelong resident of Ellensburg who has graduated from Ellensburg High School and Central Washington University. He is currently a farmer/rancher, he also owns and operates Midstate Aviation at Bowers Field.

He said he is running because a friend asked him to consider it. He said has been interested in the position since he ran for it 25 years ago. He said experience as a business owner, and his involvement with local organizations such as Ellensburg Rodeo and Chamber of Commerce will aid him as commissioner.

He believes the current PUD does a good job, and he would ensure they maximize their resources and repair or replace any and all failing infrastructure.

Patrick Kelleher is running on the position of lowering rates to the county by having the county own a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensed hydroelectric dam. He promised that if he became commissioner, he would have Kittitas County Compete for the FERC license for the Rock Island Dam License.

He said he has attended many PUD meetings in the past, urging them to compete for the license, and they never have.

Tom Morris said he grew up in Ellensburg and graduated from EHS with the woman who would become his wife. He moved to Seattle where he worked quality improvement and statistical analysis for Boeing.

He said he would ensure the PUD reaches everyone in the county, and lower costs by upgrading the technology. This would allow the county to offer competitive rates to consumers. He said he is excited to bring affordable power to all residents.

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