LPEA

The members of La Plata Electric Association face a difficult but enviable choice. With five hard-working and conscientious candidates vying for three seats on the co-op’s board of directors, the voters must, in essence, turn down two good people. While on one level unfortunate, it is a situation that should happen in more elections.

With character and work ethics not at issue, the Herald chooses experience and continuity and urges the re-election of Joe Wheeling, Jeff Berman and Davin Montoya. Ballots will be in the mail Thursday and are to be returned by 4 p.m. May 21.

Davin Montoya does not have a challenger in this election. Montoya has served on the LPEA board for 24 years, through good times and bad. He knows the organization backward and forward and will bring back to the board the institutional memory and perspective all organizations need.

With no one else running for the District 2 seat, he is assured of re-election. He deserves a vote of support, nonetheless.

Joe Wheeling should also be re-elected. He brings to the board an unsurpassed level of expertise in business and finance bolstered by six years service on the LPEA board. With a master’s degree in finance, he has been the chief executive officer of a company with 5,000 employees and $1.6 billion in assets. And he has 17 years experience helping to run a family business growing and selling produce and raising locally produced, grass-fed beef. Such polar diversity is rarely found in one person.

Wheeling is also the first LPEA director to be elected to the executive committee of Tri-State, the organization from which LPEA gets most of its power. Given how much Tri-State can affect LPEA’s costs, prices and energy mix, that connection is itself extraordinarily valuable.

LPEA members should also re-elect Jeff Berman. Berman can be edgy. He exhibits an intensity and focus that may sometimes cross the line into being abrasive. But voters should remember this election is not a referendum on Jeff Berman’s demeanor. It is about the future and direction of LPEA. And on those questions, he is solid.

Berman has an engineering background. He understands electric power and the innovative ways being developed to generate, distribute and conserve it. He has served on the LPEA board for nine years and, in that time, has been instrumental in nudging the co-op toward more sustainable policies, greater use of renewable power and an orientation more focused on conservation. He would continue that with a rate structure that offers incentives to reduce consumption such that members can lower their bills by taking steps to curtail their power consumption. If Berman is sometimes difficult, he is also largely right.

In a perfect world, there would also be seats on the LPEA board for Allison Dance and Bill Waters.

Dance has a background in small business and a belief in community service, including local politics. She sees utilities changing rapidly and LPEA as not broken, but in need of improvement. She also rightly recognizes the central importance of LPEA’s need to pick the right new CEO.

Waters has both extensive business experience and a long history of involvement and service to the community. He has been active in helping veterans, coaching youth and working with his church. A fifth-generation resident of La Plata County, he has innovative ideas about smart meters, financing renewable energy and LPEA’s role in educating people about conserving electricity.

The community needs smart and energetic people like Dance and Waters. May they stay involved and engaged.

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