Winners to be announced May 12 at LPEA Annual Meeting in Ignacio
DURANGO, Colo. – With challenges in the energy industry looming large, interest in securing a “seat at the table” when La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) determines current and future policy has stimulated a solid field of candidates for the up-coming board of directors election in all of LPEA’s four districts. Ballots will be mailed Friday, April 20, 2012.
“We encourage interest from our members, and we want them to be involved,” said Greg Munro, LPEA CEO. “We are now facing rising costs for the production of electricity, be it traditional generation or renewable, and we will need to be thoughtful and conscientious as we explore our options going forward. This election is very important. We encourage all LPEA members to get to know the candidates and vote.”
In accordance with LPEA’s bylaws, annually one seat in each of LPEA’s four districts comes up for election.
[Please note: Candidate profiles and statements are included at the end of this release.]
The approximately 7,600 LPEA members in Archuleta County – District 1 – will elect a representative to the board from a field of tw incumbent J. Robert (Bob) Formwalt and new candidate Kirsten Skeehan.
Incumbent Jerry McCaw faces new candidate Bruce Baizel in the director election for District 2, which includes approximately 8,200 eligible voters.
In District 3, which is essentially the City of Durango, new candidate Britt Bassett is challenging incumbent Robert (Bobby) Lieb, Jr., for his seat. District 3 includes approximately 7,300 eligible voters.
New candidates Heather Erb and Ann McCoy Harold are challenging incumbent Herb Brodsky in District 4. Approximately 7,500 eligible voters are in District 4, which covers north and east La Plata County, including Bayfield.
Election packets will be mailed to all member-owners (those who pay their electric bill to LPEA) on April 20, and ballots must be returned by 4 p.m., Friday, May 11 to FredrickZink & Associates. The independent, Durango-based CPA firm has been retained by LPEA to tally the ballots utilizing La Plata County’s official ballot counting equipment. The results will be announced at the LPEA Annual Meeting at Sky Ute Casino and Resort in Ignacio on May 12. Registration for the Annual Meeting begins at 9 a.m., with the business meeting to commence at 10:30 a.m. A complimentary lunch follows.
LPEA, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative established in 1939, provides to its more than 30,000 members, with in excess of 42,000 meters, safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost, while being environmentally responsible. For additional information, contact LPEA at 970.247.5786 or visit www.lpea.coop.
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Candidates in District 1, Archuleta County
J. Robert Formwalt is the incumbent candidate for District 1.
Bob Formwalt was raised in Southwest Colorado and completed his college education in Business Administration at Fort Lewis College. He spent the next 10 years in the banking industry at Belgrade State Bank of Belgrade, Mont., and Burns National Bank, Durango, with a focus on real estate and agricultural loans. Formwalt served 12 years as an Archuleta County Commissioner, and has participated actively in the local community, as well as statewide, serving on numerous boards and commissions. Employed with his wife on their ranch east of Pagosa, he also currently works part time as a Water Commissioner for the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
Bob Formwalt: “Spending the better part of the last 50 years of my life living, working, serving and raising my family in Archuleta County has provided me a unique historical perspective of the continual needs LPEA and its members face. The communities in Archuleta and Hinsdale Counties are in jeopardy of not having dependable electricity without redundancy in 115 KV transmission lines and adequate substations. As long as I am your director on the LPEA board, I will continue to support budgets to extend an additional 115 KV transmission line and provide additional substations in order to assure continued, dependable service at the lowest cost possible. I firmly believe this country needs to be moving toward alternative energy sources, but these moves must be done in a reasonable manner to not burden our economically depressed communities by forcing higher energy costs onto our members. I believe Feed-In Tariffs are unfair to our members, especially the low and fixed-income families. Charging members higher electricity rates for alternative energy in order to provide “Risk Capital” to those providers is equally unfair. Also, I believe LPEA needs to continue revisiting its line extension policies in order to not over burden property owners in some of our older subdivisions.”
Kirsten Skeehan is a new candidate for District 1.
A resident of Pagosa Springs for 13 years, Kirsten Skeehan has been the co-owner of Pagosa Baking Company for 11 of those years, following a 21-year career with Fannie Mae in technology and infrastructure. Over her career, she managed major construction projects, multi-million dollar computer centers, and both large and small teams. Prior to Fannie Mae she served in the Navy both Active Duty and Reserves working in intelligence, computers and worldwide secure communications. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and an MBA from George Washington University. Skeehan is currently Chair of the Archuleta County Housing Authority, has promoted geothermal use in Pagosa, is a member and previous board member of Pagosa Noon Rotary, and volunteers with the American Cancer Society.
Kirsten Skeehan: “I see LPEA as a great way to continue my passion for growing Pagosa Country in a sustainable way. We need to diversify our economy and broaden our approach to creating jobs and careers. We need to strengthen our LPEA Coop by actively embracing alternatives, seeing past the status quo and working for multiple, secure, affordable sources of energy. I have the technological and business capability to re-energize the LPEA Board. As an LPEA board director, my fiduciary responsibility to the Coop will complement my enthusiasm for local development. We need to be open to many solutions as we face our challenges.”
Candidates in District 2, South and West La Plata County
Bruce Baizel is a new candidate for District 2.
Bruce Baizel and his family run a ranch on the west side of La Plata County where they generate one-third of the electricity they use from a wind turbine and solar panels. Baizel is nationally-known for his work on energy policy, including natural gas, coal and renewable energy. During the past year, he was invited to make presentations on energy issues for utility regulators in Canada, state agency personnel from 15 western states, the district attorney association of California and he was an invited speaker on natural gas issues at the Colorado Rural Electric Association 2011 Energy Summit. This past summer, Baizel spent a week visiting farmers, power plants and small business owners in Germany and Austria who used renewable sources of energy to see what works and what could be done better here in southwest Colorado. Baizel has been licensed to practice law in Colorado since 1986.
Bruce Baizel: “LPEA faces challenging times, with the cost of coal-fired electricity rising and the old way of doing business no longer serving us well. I am committed to keeping our rates low by diversifying our sources of electricity to include more that is locally produced, especially from renewable sources. This commitment will not only keep more of our hard earned dollars in southwest Colorado, but it will also help support more local jobs. I value LPEA’s long history of open and transparent decision-making and will bring a renewed commitment to that cooperative principle, if I am elected to the board.”
Jerry McCaw is the incumbent candidate for District 2
Jerry McCaw , a Durango native, came up through the Ignacio school system and attended Fort Lewis College and Colorado State University. He holds a Bachelor's of Science in Civil Engineering and is a former engineer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is an established rancher in the Ignacio area. McCaw, currently president of the LPEA board of directors, served 15 years on the Basin Co-op Board of Directors, is a former member of the Ignacio School Board and has served on numerous local and state advisory committees. He is a member of the La Plata and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Habitat Partnership Program for La Plata and Archuleta Counties and a member of the National Cattle Feeders’ Association. He was also honored as “Agriculturalist of the Year” by the Durango Chamber of Commerce.
Jerry McCaw: “La Plata Electric Association is a cooperative, and as such your board practices democratic representation. As an LPEA board member, I listen to all aspects of any given issue and make careful decisions, taking into consideration the concerns of all of our 30,000-plus members. During my tenure on the board, I am proud to say that we have been a leader among electric cooperatives in pursuing a new mix of electricity generation, and we advocate strongly for our members with our main power supplier Tri-State to help ensure we keep rates reasonable and the electricity reliable, all while being environmentally responsible. There is more to running an electric cooperative than just exploring renewable energy. I consider it a privilege to have served on the LPEA board and if re-elected, I will continue to vigilantly pursue what is fiscally, socially and environmentally optimum for our cooperative.”
Candidates in District 3, the City of Durango
Britt Bassett is a new candidate for District 3.
Britt Bassett is a Colorado native raised in La Plata County where he attended Bayfield schools for 12 years. He has a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Arizona and his career includes working at Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) labs in Colorado. He has been a partner in the start up of two small businesses in Boulder, and is currently a partner in Solar Seminars, Inc., a business in Durango that provides design and construction management for large commercial photovoltaic (PV) systems in California. Solar Seminars also provides workforce training to help laborers and small businessman who want to enter the industry.
Britt Bassett: “My research and work in renewable energy has made it clear that southwestern Colorado is missing out on a great opportunity for increased economic development by putting up roadblocks to renewable energy rather than encouraging it. Energy generation and distribution in the 21st century is going to be different than in the last century, and this offers opportunities for local economic development, particularly for rural landowners, that were not available in the past. Co-op members have demonstrated their support for more renewable energy in passing Amendment 37, and in every survey since conducted on this issue. Incorporating more renewables into our overall energy mix in the future does not require raising rates, but will be an ongoing challenge requiring creative, forward looking leadership. I have the experience, the strong technical background, and the leadership qualities needed to help LPEA craft policies that will encourage the local renewable energy development opportunities that will help meet our community’s goals.”
Robert A. (Bobby) Lieb, Jr., is the incumbent candidate for District 3.
Bobby Lieb is completing his first term as an LPEA director, and is also well known as a La Plata County Commissioner. His community development experience is extensive with his work on the Airport Business Park with the Durango Industrial Development Foundation (DIDF), and as former executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce and the La Plata Economic Development Action Partnership (LEAD). Lieb also serves on the FastTrack Communications Board of Directors, as well as the boards of San Juan Basin Health and the Regional Housing Alliance, the latter which he chairs. Born in Newport Beach, Calif., Lieb grew up in Durango, spending his formative years developing his business acumen while working for and operating the family clothing manufacturing and retail business, Durango Threadworks, and later owning his own clothing retail store in Newport, RI. Lieb is a graduate of Durango High School, and received his Bachelor’s of Science in International Marketing at Arizona State University.
Bobby Lieb: “Today’s electric coops are faced with the daunting task of keeping rates low for all its members amidst the pressures of ever increasing wholesale power costs. I will continue to advocate on our members’ behalf to keep rates as low as possible through a combination of sound renewable and distributive energy policy, a continuation of conservation and efficiency programs, improved products and services, and reasonable long-term power source contracts. LPEA is a leader among rural electric coops for the promotion of green energy and communication with its members, having received national awards in both categories. I am proud of LPEA’s achievements and for having been a part of these efforts.”
Candidates in District 4, North and East La Plata County
Herbert C. (Herb) Brodsky is the incumbent candidate for District 4.
A Southwest Colorado resident since 1980, Herb Brodsky is an independent business consultant whose professional experience includes Vice President/Director of Property Management for Simon & Associates, the largest national shopping center development and property management company in the U.S. He also was Sales Engineer/Product Manager with Carborundum Company; Sales Engineer with Rockwell Standard Corporation; Staff Engineer, Central Engineering Division, Chrysler Corporation. In addition to serving on the LPEA Round Up Foundation Board, he has been active as board president of: The Southwest Land Alliance, Community Foundation of SW Colorado, American Cancer Society, Durango Natural Foods, La Plata County Community Development Corp., Durango Repertory Theatre Co. He has also served on the 6th Judicial District Nominating Committee, and several other boards. Brodsky earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University, and a Masters in automotive engineering from The Chrysler Institute of Engineering. A three-term president of the LPEA Board of Directors, Brodsky is a designated Credentialed Cooperative Director by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and has been awarded its Board Leadership Certificate.
Herb Brodsky: “My service to La Plata Electric has provided me with in-depth knowledge of our company and the electric industry as a whole. My many years of business experience have enabled me to actively contribute to the success and achievements of our co-op. I am not a single issue candidate. I believe the major role of an LPEA Director is to consider the needs and wishes of ALL the members when making the complex decisions. I would like to continue to serve District 4, where I add a progressive voice to our board of directors.”
Heather Erb is a new candidate for District 4.
Heather Erb has lived in La Plata County for 13 years after receiving her Bachelor’s degree from Clark University. Her leadership positions include president of the Durango Area Association of Realtors, president of the MLS Corporation CREN, president of the La Plata/San Juan County Eye & Ear Program, and a girl’s youth hockey coach. A regional speaker on green building and the real estate market, Erb was instrumental in getting the “Green Feature Initiative” into the MLS in southwest Colorado, helping homeowners and the industry by allowing value to be given to energy efficiency. Erb was one of 15 U.S. citizens invited to participate on a recent study in the EU to learn more about renewable energy and its economic benefits.
Heather Erb: "As a successful business person with a strong background in both fiscal planning and energy efficiency, I see opportunities for economic development that are not being pursued. I believe we can keep some of our energy dollars in our community, while at the same time, encouraging economic development that is real and provides good local jobs. With the cost of renewables falling and coal costs climbing, it makes perfect sense to encourage local projects now rather than waiting for a crisis. This ensures both local control and rate stability. I am not afraid to think outside the box, and know that I can contribute to making LPEA not only a leader among rural cooperatives, but a leader in helping our local economy."
Ann McCoy Harold is a new candidate for District 4.
Ann McCoy Harold is a lifelong Bayfielder. Her mother, Lavenia McCoy, lives in the home where she was Dee McCoy’s bride in 1940. Ann’s abiding respect for LPEA stems from her uncle, Earl McCoy, who worked as a rural electric association foreman, and cousins, Kenneth McCoy and Donnie McCoy, who enjoyed long careers at LPEA. While Harold owned and edited Pine River Times, LPEA came to her attention when wise directors prevented its being taken down the Enron path. Harold has been a member of CLUB 20 since 1990, and was elected to its board for several terms, during which she also served as chair. She now sits on the board of directors of Durango Discovery Museum. Commitment to the continued strength of the cooperative, which lit up La Plata and Archuleta Counties seven decades ago, continues to motivate Harold.
Ann McCoy Harold: “I will act to keep LPEA strong. We live in interesting times: more ways to produce electricity; many more rules governing the industry; still just one way to deliver power; and less money in our economy. I believe it is vital to avoid being drawn into fads. I respect and intend to protect our community’s investment in LPEA.”