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Our view: Board, city manager

La Plata Electric Association results bode well; hats off to Amber Blake

The results of La Plata Electric Association’s board election for the three seats in La Plata County suggest a steady-as-it-goes desire on the part of voters.

The two incumbents, Kohler McInnis and Tim Wheeler, received vote tallies in the low 60th percentile; for any winner in any election that’s a strong endorsement. Ted Compton, a newcomer with a strong education and a background in engineering, did even better with almost 70% of the vote in his district.

For all three, those are strong margins. There is no doubt whom the voters favored.

It will be McKinnis’s third term, Wheeler’s second.

The election was a clean one. One candidate used something close to the LPEA logo on his advertising, which isn’t allowed, and he apologized. And there apparently were a couple of voters who believed that particular candidates were being endorsed by the LPEA board or its administration; that was not the case, and next election, non-involvement by the co-op will be made especially clear. Most boards do not single out favorites.

The major election shortcoming, however, was that only 24% of voters turned out; 30% had been hoped for. Considering that turning LPEA as “green” as possible without running up costs for members is the issue of the moment, more were expected to vote.

LPEA is on the march to acquire a greater percentage of its energy from renewables, and perhaps all of its energy at a lower cost from different providers. Meanwhile, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, LPEA’s longtime provider, has not been fully cooperative. It has resisted LPEA’s attempts to obtain a price for buyout of its contract. But all of that is likely to change, and soon.

With Kohler and Wheeler continuing and Compton on board, we look forward to LPEA identifying the right mix of renewables, local sources – and perhaps some continued reliance on Tri-State – that best serves its members.

• • •

Amber Blake is best known for stepping up to take on the interim city manager position in October 2019 after the sudden departure of City Manager Ron LeBlanc.

Blake immediately faced troubles with city financial recording, which was in disarray and made budgeting for the imminent new year impossible. In addition, she had to help determine how much money had been misappropriated by the city’s just-fired financial officer.

The search was extensive, requiring a specialized audit, while financial planning was temporarily suspended – not easy circumstances for an interim manager whose primary expertise was in transportation.

The city, thanks to Blake, has been back on financial track and was turned over in good shape to its new manager, José Madrigal, last August. She has been serving as assistant city manager and transit director since his arrival.

We wish Blake well in her significant new position as director of transit and rail for the Colorado Department of Transportation. Here, Blake moved Durango along nicely on the multimodal front, with an emphasis on appropriate non-fossil fuel travel. That meant extensive interaction with Durangoans – who care about how to move with the least environmental impact – as well as making improvements to trails, signage and events.

Durango’s transportation options are now much improved thanks to Blake’s leadership and skills. At CDOT, she is sure to have a similar beneficial impact on the state.

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