La Plata Electric Association customers have until 4 p.m. today to drop off ballots in the annual board of director’s election.
Six people are vying for three open spots on the board. The candidates tout varying levels of support for renewable energy and keeping rates affordable.
LPEA has four director districts: Archuleta County, south and west La Plata County, the city of Durango, and north and east La Plata County. Each year, LPEA’s membership elects four representatives to the LPEA Board of Directors. This year, the top issues are renewable energy, affordable rates and the long-term contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.
As of Tuesday, voters had returned 7,135 ballots. It is too late to mail in ballots, but residents have until 4 p.m. to drop off their ballots at any of these locations:
LPEA Office Durango, 45 Stewart St.LPEA Office Pagosa Springs, 603 S. Eighth St.La Plata County Clerk & Recorder, 98 Everett St.County Administration Building, 1101 East Second Ave. in Durango.Bayfield Town Hall, 1199 Bayfield Parkway in Bayfield.Farmer’s Fresh Market, 535 Goddard Ave.LPEA will announce the election results during its annual meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday. Interested community members can join online at lpea.coop/annual-meeting.
The Archuleta County director incumbent candidate, Bob Lynch, will embark on a new term as board representative after running unopposed during the elections.
Here are the basics about the candidates from their campaign statements:
Two candidates, both newcomers, are competing for the south and west La Plata County director seat.Doug Fults, a software engineer at Backblaze Online Backup, has served as an engineering director, software engineer and chief technology officer. He supports looking for multiple energy supply options beyond coal.
“We value our rural freedom and self-determination. But right now, these qualities are missing from our energy system,” he said, referring to LPEA’s long-term contract with Tri-State.
Fults raised about $8,900 in campaign contributions as of May 5. San Juan Citizens Alliance, an environmental advocacy nonprofit, contributed about $5,300.
John Lee, fire chief of Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District, emphasized long-term stability, future growth and ensuring that LPEA’s core principles are attended to before ancillary projects.
Lee raised about $1,800 in campaign contributions. Common Sense LPEA, a group that supports Tri-State and opposes San Juan Citizens Alliance, contributed $1,500.
The city of Durango also has two candidates facing off for the director position.Rachel Landis, an incumbent candidate and the Good Food Collective director, has served on the LPEA board for three years. She emphasized her support for LPEA’s goal to reduce carbon emissions. She said she would continue to support local clean energy projects, explore ways to bring high-speed broadband to under-served areas and keep rates low.
Landis raised about $10,200 in campaign contributions as of May 4. San Juan Citizens Alliance contributed about $8,000.
Dave Nulton, a newcomer, has a master’s degree in mechanical and nuclear engineering from Stanford University and spent 43 years working in the energy industry.
He focused on providing an adequate, reliable and affordable energy supply. Nulton supported appropriate renewable energy alternatives, but emphasized understanding their pros and cons. Nulton reported no contributions.
In north and east La Plata County, Sue McWilliams, a new candidate, is challenging Guinn Unger, an incumbent candidate, for the director seat.McWilliams, former director of LPEA’s sister co-op, Empire Electric, wants to “stop wasteful and excessive spending” by the board and focus on providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity. She supports Tri-State’s plan to increase renewables to 50% by 2024.
McWilliams raised $4,000 in campaign contributions as of April 28. Common Sense LPEA contributed about $3,900.
Unger said he wanted to make LPEA a leader in clean, affordable and locally produced energy. He emphasized transitioning away from coal and using solar energy.
Unger raised about $7,000 in campaign contributions as of May 6. San Juan Citizens Alliance contributed about $6,400.