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Our View: LPEA election

McInnis, Compton, Wheeler for board

La Plata Electric Association is entering a critical period during which important decisions will be made that will affect our electric rates; facilitate shifting from fossil fuel-dominant power to more renewable energy sources; and possibly develop broadband service for members. The issues are incredibly complex. Understanding those issues was the primary criterion for the Herald’s endorsements, which were based on Editorial Board interviews with the candidates and our own research. (We do not endorse a candidate for District 1, Archuleta County, because it is outside our general coverage area.)

Ballots for the LPEA Board of Directors’ election will be mailed Monday and the deadline for their receipt (by mail or in person) is 4 p.m. June 16. On June 17, LPEA will hold a brief virtual annual meeting at which it will announce the results. Members must register to attend the meeting at lpea.coop/annual-meeting.

Voters will also be asked to consider two sections comprising an amendment to the LPEA bylaws that will allow for holding the annual meeting virtually and allow virtual attendance at regular and special meetings of the membership and the board of directors. We support this practical amendment.

District 2 (south and west La Plata County)

Kohler McInnis is the incumbent candidate, having served on the board since 2015. He is the board’s elected representative to Tri-State Generation & Transmission, the association of co-ops to which LPEA belongs and from which it purchases almost all of its power. McInnis’ experience and in-depth knowledge of LPEA operations make him the right choice. He promotes lower rates, reliability and continued financial stability. He is concerned about fire prevention and protection and increased costs due to inflation. We trust he will assess the coming Tri-State buyout situation and vote appropriately when the time comes.

Kohler’s challenger, teacher Mark Walser, is eager to see renewable power produced locally and to maintain the good condition of LPEA’s grid. Both are admirable. But Kohler’s six years on the board win out.

District 3 (City of Durango)

Ted Compton would be a new board member. A Durango native and engineer who works in the energy industry, Compton has served on the boards of La Plata Open Space Conservancy and FastTrack, the business broadband subsidiary of LPEA, so he already has working relationships with LPEA board and staff members. He has attended all the LPEA board meetings of the last four months and has clearly developed a deep understanding of the issues it faces. He is committed to making intelligent decisions based on facts, not politics, and keeping rates low.

Compton’s opponent, Bill Waters, territorial manager for Caterpillar, is familiar with solar installations and knows mechanics. But Compton’s engineering degrees, pipeline company experience and years on FastTrack’s board give him the advantage.

District 4 (north and east La Plata County)

Tim Wheeler, an LPEA board member since 2018, is treasurer of the board and has a strong command of LPEA’s finances. He believes a full exit from Tri-State will serve members best and that reliable, stable and renewable power sources will be readily available. Wheeler is also the board’s representative to FastTrack and thus understands issues pertinent to LPEA’s potential involvement in providing broadband to members. In his single term on the board, Wheeler has advanced setting up standing committees and adopting financial goals.

John Purser, who wants Wheeler’s seat, could bring his experience as a retired information technology director to the board. But he lacks board experience. Wheeler’s technical know-how and board service win out.

The Herald urges readers to give serious consideration to the candidates and vote their consciences.

We appreciate all of the candidates for their willingness to serve and the hard work of campaigning and learning about LPEA. All are fine people who make important contributions to our community.

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