By Marcy Stamper
William Colyar, of Carlton, was selected to fill out the term of District 2 commissioner for the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) at the commission’s board meeting on Monday (Oct. 23).
Colyar was one of four applicants for the post, which was vacated when Commissioner Steve Houston resigned on Oct. 4. He retired after a 27-year career with the U.S. Navy and as former manager of a communications network for U.S. Electrodynamics, a satellite facility north of Brewster.
PUD board president Scott Vejraska and secretary Jerry Asmussen decided last week to interview all four candidates. The other three candidates were Ray Campbell, of Gold Creek, who has a background in construction and recently served a four-year term as Okanogan County commissioner; Anthony Yusi, of Okanogan, who works in the construction industry and operates an espresso stand in Okanogan; and Louis “Brad” Zabreznik, of Okanogan, who works for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
All four candidates answered the same half-dozen questions in an open public meeting. Questions covered their vision for the PUD, their knowledge and opinion about
Enloe Dam, their experience with policy governance, and what they would look for in a new general manager. One of the first tasks the full board of commissioners will face is the search for a general manager to replace John Grubich, who was terminated Sept. 25.
Colyar’s vision for the PUD is for the utility “to supply reliable, sustainable electric power at a very reasonable cost.” The PUD has a role to play in economic development in the county, he said.
Colyar pointed to his experience working on nuclear submarines for the Navy, where it was necessary to understand all the engineering and electrical systems.
A general manager should have experience running an electric utility, and should bring a solid background – ideally academic and experiential – in business, said Colyar. He also wants someone who “understands the difference between management and leadership,” he said.
All four candidates observed that Enloe Dam is a very expensive project, whether it is rebuilt or removed, but Colyar had the most pointed remarks about the hydropower project near Oroville, which hasn’t produced power in half a century.
“I truly do not mean to insult anyone, but 5 megawatts [the amount of power Enloe would produce] is nothing in the power grid. This is literally insignificant,” said Colyar.
Colyar said he was concerned about how long it would take for the PUD to recoup its investment in Enloe. He asked whether there is a requirement for the PUD to rebuild or tear it down, as opposed to leaving it as is.
Campbell pointed to his experience as a county commissioner in budgeting, his work on legislation, and his interactions with the Bonneville Power Administration and salmon recovery groups, which play a role in power production.
Yusi has a background running his own business and is accustomed to a results-generated timeline, where he isn’t paid until he gets a job done.
Zabreznik said he’s accustomed to dealing with the public and with budget issues at his job with WDFW and is open to hearing from the public and from PUD staff.
After an executive session, Vejraska and Asmussen said they were impressed by the qualified pool of applicants. They selected Colyar, who was sworn in later in the meeting. Vejraska urged the other three to continue their interest in the PUD and to run for the commissioner position, which will be on the ballot in Nov. 2018.
In other business, the commissioners formalized the termination of Grubich, following up with the second reading of the resolution terminating his employment, as required by law. After a decade with the PUD, Grubich was terminated for his failure to follow policy when issuing contracts and for using abusive language toward coworkers and county officials.
The commissioners also had the first reading of a resolution to appoint Don Coppock as the PUD’s interim general manager. Coppock, the utility’s director of accounting, finance and administration, was appointed as acting general manager when Grubich was placed on leave in August.