Update: Co-op board of directors election draws seven candidates

(This update includes two corrections from the article’s original posting)

A total of seven candidates will be vying for two positions on the Orcas Power and Light Cooperative board of directors, with the future of the co-op once again at the crossroads.

The upcoming election promises to highlight contrasting views on what direction the co-op should take in upgrading its electrical distribution system, expand its network of fiber-optic cable, and, ultimately, how the cost of those investments should be covered.

The candidates seeking election to the two board positions, both representing the district that includes San Juan Island, are incumbents Vince Dauciunas and Glenna Hall, and challengers Don Galt, Sr., Brian Hoyer, Steve Hudson, Douglas Rowan and John Sheehan.

Dauciunas, noting that prior board elections have typically been decided by less than 10 percent of the co-op’s 12,000 members, would like to see a far greater turnout in the upcoming election, which culminates at the co-op’s annual meeting on May 3 (ballots will be in the mail beginning April 11).

Although fellow incumbent Glenna Hall is enthusiastic about standing for election after serving as an appointed director for less than a year, she hopes that the election will not become like the political campaigns she participated in as a King County Superior Court judge.

“It would be a shame to politicize an OPALCO election,” she said.

Galt and Hudson were nominated by petition of 15 San Juan Island members. Hoyer, Rowan and Sheehan were selected by a nominating committee appointed by the OPALCO board. All seven are profiled at www.opalco.com/about/board-of-directors.

The nominating committee consisted of three San Juan residents: Victoria Compton, Economic Development Council director, Peter Kilpatrick of Ravenhill Construction and civic activist and technology executive Mark Madsen.

Madsen, chairman of the committee, said the panel talked with about 30 potential nominees, all of whom were experienced in community service, business or “running something.” The chosen three are all well-qualified, he said.

Madsen and Kilpatrick agree that most of the potential candidates identified expansion of broadband as the most important issue in this year’s election.

Hudson, raised on San Juan Island, is a former telecommunications manager and executive. He’s been an outspoken critic of OPALCO’s broadband initiative. He wrote in his candidate’s statement that, “the economic case for OPALCO’s pursuit [of expanded broadband] has not been made clear.”

Galt, Sr., is a familiar active volunteer in Friday Harbor who has lived on San Juan Island since 1982. He’s a former contractor who developed the Foxhall subdivision and spearheaded initial construction of the community ballfields at the end of Carter Avenue.

Rowan is an electrical engineer and MBA who was utility industry manager for IBM. He worked with the IBM team that set up and managed the New York Power Pool created after the 1965 east coast power blackout. He says his priorities for OPALCO “would be to continue reliable, low cost power, alternative energy and conservation initiatives and use of technology in all areas.”

“OPALCO needs to play a key role in our broadband needs,” he said in an online candidate statement.

Sheehan is a mechanical engineer who worked for General Electric, on coal-fired steam turbine generators and on nuclear power plant operations. He retired as manager of Nuclear Plant Services in San Jose, Calif.

Hoyer was a Silicon Valley engineer, inventor and entrepreneur who designed “everything from high power satellite systems to network encryptors.” In his board candidate’s statement, he wrote, “As a Board Member of OPALCO, Bryan will focus on guiding the technical and business issues that arise as a result of bringing broadband to the islands.”

Two member-initiated bylaw amendments will be voted on along with the board members’ elections. The first, presented to OPALCO by Steve Ludwig of Lopez Island, would require Energy Member Informational Meetings with the board and management on Orcas, San Juan and Lopez islands every three months, following the annual meeting. The amendments says, “The purpose of said Informational Meeting is to provide the opportunity for dialogue between Energy Members, the Board of Directors and management staff about the Cooperative’s affairs.” The estimated cost of the meetings is $22,960 per year.

The second amendment, presented by San Juan Island’s Gray Cope, would mandate internet streaming of board meetings. More information about this streaming proposal can be found at creativeconnections.com/opalco.html.

The election will be held at the OPALCO’s 77th annual meeting, May 3 onboard the inter-island ferry. Mail-in absentee ballots will be mailed to all members beginning April 11. All members have the opportunity to vote for the San Juan Island district directors. The two candidates with the most votes will be elected.

More information can be found at http://www.opalco.com/about/annual-meeting-report/.