The Grays Harbor PUD Commission held a passing of the torch ceremony combined with a changing of the guard on Monday.
Arie Callaghan, who won election in November, was sworn in as the new PUD commissioner, replacing the retiring five-term commissioner Tom Casey, at the same time the board decided to move forward to advertise for a new general manager to replace Rick Lovely, who announced his retirement in June.
Callaghan took the oath of office in a ceremony performed by Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards. The supervisor at Mason Trucking in Aberdeen beat former Montesano City Councilman Chris Thomas for the seat held by Casey since 1982.
Callaghan joins Dave Timmons, elected two years ago, and Russ Skolrood, elected four years ago, on the three-member board.
“Next month, there’s going to be a total of six years of experience sitting up here,” Skolrood remarked in thanking Casey for his service at what amounted to his final commission meeting in 30 years on the board.
“I’ve learned so much over the last two years, I’m just sorry Arie doesn’t have the chance to experience it,” Timmons said to Casey.
Skolrood said the impact of Casey’s and Lovely’s combined retirements would be felt beyond Grays Harbor and he vowed to keep on with their legacy in support of public power issues.
“These two fought really hard, and they would talk to anybody who would listen — even people who wouldn’t listen — about the importance of public power and protecting it,” Skolrood said. “It got through to me over these years.”
In a break before the regular commission meeting, Timmons said the board instructed staff to begin advertising for a replacement for Lovely after the process was sidetracked on a still uncompleted attempt to better define the PUD’s mission and goals in selecting a new general manager. That process will go on later next year but the board wanted to move forward in searching for Lovely’s replacement, Timmons said.
After sitting through his final meeting as an audience member, Callaghan said he was pleased to see the general manager search get under way.
“I think it’s going to work out well,” he said. “We kind of have a direction going and I’m just happy to be able to have some input into who we hire.”
Casey was lauded by staff throughout the meeting, and it was noted by Lovely that he attended the Washington Public Utility District Association meeting in Vancouver, Wash., where Casey was honored with a lifetime achievement award. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Congressman Norm Dicks also recently honored Casey in the Congressional Record, and he received recognition by the Public Power Council, which is made up of customers of the Bonneville Power Administration.
Lovely said that when he was hired as general manager 13 years ago it was by a 2-1 vote. He was interim general manager at the time, and Casey was the vote in opposition because he objected to the process in which the hiring was made.
“I’ve had the blessings of a great working relationship for that 13 years,” Lovely said.
Casey replied: “You and I have been a pair to draw to, that’s for sure.”
In parting words, Skolrood expressed a sense of apprehension at the changes.
“But I’m sure we’ll try to keep the lights on, but attacking that bigger picture is something you passed on to us,” he said.
Casey noted he had worked with 13 or 14 commissioners and said the current group is “at the top of the spectrum,” and he also singled out former commissioners Truman Seely and Jim Eddy.
“My confidence is real high,” Casey said. “… When the world sees that Grays Harbor still champions the cause of the people paying the bills, even though Casey isn’t there any more and you do it anyway, they’ll know that it wasn’t just one person who was pushing that.”
The PUD on Monday also issued an outline of the new rates that take effect Jan. 1 as a result of the 8 percent increase approved last week by commissioners as part of the PUD’s 2013 budget
For the average residential customer using 1,100 kilowatt-hours of energy per month, the rate increase will result in an increase of $7.51 on their monthly bill, not including taxes, the PUD said.
The higher rates also reflect an anticipated increase in rates by the Bonneville Power Administration in the coming year and the PUD projects an increase in BPA power costs of $1 million in 2013.
In addition, the PUD will be funding its $7.5 million capital budget from revenues rather than assuming additional debt.
The revenue forecast for the budget year continues to show the impact of declining power markets with a projected decrease of $2 million in revenue for the coming year from the sale of surplus power.