Brought stability to consumer-owned local utility
By Natalie Johnson
After a decade as general manager of the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative, David Gottula has announced his retirement, effective this summer.
“There’s definitely a comfort level, it’s a good time to do it, a good time in my career,” he said.
The consumer-owned private power utility serves about 3,000 customers in the Methow Valley. Though in the past year, membership has increased along with an influx of residents to the valley.
“Last year was one of the busiest years we’ve had,” Gottula said. “There’s a growth in usage because, typically about 50% of our membership is second homes and a lot of people have moved into those second homes temporarily or permanently … plus there’s a lot of new people building … so we’ve had a lot of new connects.”
Gottula, 61, originally from New Mexico, worked in Oregon for a few years before taking over as general manager of the co-op 10 years ago. Overall, he’s worked in the field for 39 years.
“We loved it,” he said. “I’d never even heard of this place until we came here to interview.”
Of the things he has helped accomplish in the past decade, Gottula said he’s most pleased about work he did to get a second power transmission line running into the Methow Valley.
“We had a lot more outages,” he said. “It [the new line] really increased our reliability.”
Several projects he’s working on now will continue after his retirement. Gottula plans to present an updated fire management plan at the co-op’s annual meeting on April 19, and an electric vehicle committee is discussing the future of EV charging in the area.
“It’s at a conceptual stage,” he said, adding that demand is not high yet for electric vehicle charging services. “But I think it’s going to be growing soon.”
Gottula is involved in Okanogan County Search and Rescue and enjoys hiking and playing keyboard and singing in two bands. He and his wife, Sue, plan to stay in the valley.
“We have roots here,” he said.
OCEC Board President Dale Sekijima declined to speak with the Methow Valley News on the subject of Gottula’s retirement, referring the newspaper to a February edition of the OCEC newsletter.
In the newsletter, Sekijima is quoted as saying, “From the board’s viewpoint, David has made three very important, if low-profile contributions during his tenure. First, he stabilized the Co-op-member relationship after a period of unrest; second, has kept costs well under control and reduced debt; and third, did his best to prepare OCEC for a smooth transition, under his retirement, to a new GM.”
The OCEC board is working with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association to find a candidate for a new general manager in what Gottula said would be a nationwide search.
Gottula said any further information about the selection process is confidential and that the OCEC would not be commenting on it.
The co-op’s annual meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 19 and will take place virtually. A link will be available at www.ocec.coop.
The annual meeting is on the topic of “The Power of Fire Protection, OCEC’s Wildfire Mitigation Efforts,” and will include four speakers, including Gottula, forester Samuel Israel, retired U.S. Forest Service Methow District Ranger Michael Liu and Dr. Susan Prichard, a Winthrop-area resident and forest ecologist with the University of Washington.