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Our View: LPEA elections

Vote McInnis, Compton, Wheeler for co-op board

In this year’s La Plata Electric Association election, the Herald’s editorial board favors experience and expertise. That means that it would like to see Kohler McInnis re-elected to a third term in District 2, Ted Compton take District 3’s open seat, and Tim Wheeler returned for a second term in District 4.

Kohler has made a serious effort at learning the deep ins and outs of electrical delivery and generation and has represented LPEA on Tri-State’s 42-member governing board. He has that position now. His institutional memory and comprehension of the complexities of this slice of the energy industry are significant.

Compton has two engineering degrees, works for a pipeline company and is a member of the board of FastTrack, an LPEA subsidiary that delivers broadband services to businesses and other entities. He has extensive experience in serving on boards of directors and, because of his participation in FastTrack, already is familiar with LPEA staff and sitting board members.

Wheeler is LPEA’s treasurer and represents the co-op on the FastTrack board. He is a founding member of Durango’s very successful business promoter, Local First, and is determined to see LPEA acquire as much of its electricity as possible locally, focusing on renewable sources. He has a sophisticated understanding of LPEA’s finances.

The issue of the day, and the decade, is to what degree – and at what cost – LPEA can free itself from supporting Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s dated commitment to fossil fuels. Tri-State may be moving toward renewables as quickly as it can, given the varying degrees of enthusiasm by many of its 42 members, but most on LPEA’s board would generally like to move in that direction faster.

None of the three candidates the editorial board prefers – McInnis, Compton or Wheeler – would push the co-op forward blindly with a disregard for the cost of a buy-out. Kohler seems the most cautious and Wheeler the most eager, but all three strongly express their sensitivity to rates and the long-term financial impacts of such a switch. Leaving Tri-State, fully or partially, will have to make economic sense and cannot be a burden on electricity customers, thre three candidates all say.

Kohler is opposed by Mark Walser, who teaches middle school science and has been chosen by his peers to represent them in issues with the district administration. That’s a significant position.

Compton is challenged for the open seat by Bill Waters. Waters is a longtime manager at the local Caterpillar dealership, knows small technology initiatives up close, and is from a well-known, community-minded family.

Wheeler’s opponent is John Purser, who retired after 35 years in the information technology arena. He has an economics degree and also studied environmental economics, security markets and financial institutions.

All are good challengers, but the editorial board believes that experience will best serve LPEA. Vote for Kohler McInnis, Ted Compton and Tim Wheeler for the three seats in La Plata County. Ballots are due by 4 p.m. June 16.

And vote “Yes” to permit board and membership meetings, and the annual meeting, to be conducted virtually, when desired. Zoom and its siblings are with us for the long term, and though we all like to meet face-to-face, these technologies also happily make it possible for those with disabilities or without transportation to attend meetings.

Reliable electric power, increasingly renewable and at reasonable rates, is critical – so make the effort to vote.