Eight candidates hoping to win election to three seats on the DMEA board of directors engaged about 60 members of the public during the first of two League of Women Voters’ forums in Cedaredge on May 6. A second forum was scheduled in Montrose May 13.
The event was a question-and-answer format without direct debate among candidates.
The first question was about DMEA’s commitment to helping communities access broadband internet service.
(NOTE: Space does not allow for quoting full, verbatim candidate statements. Instead, all remarks are synopsized with the full intention of conveying faithfully the speaker’s meaning. Questions and responses are presented in the order given at the Cedaredge forum.)
Question: Do you support a collaborative effort to bring broadband internet here?
Terry Brown: DMEA is bringing fiberoptic cable to its substations and has made it available to “middle mile” providers. It is the responsibility of private business to bring it to communities and consumers.
B.J. Brown: In favor of exploring the idea to see if it is economically feasible.
Mark Eckhart: Supports it. It is needed for business, schools and the hospital.
Sue Whittlesey: In favor of looking at the economic feasibility.
Gyneepher Thomassen: It is absolutely critical for competitiveness and to generate revenue for DMEA.
John Gavan: It is absolutely vital for the community. It is the final hope for economic revitalization.
Steve Shea: Supports broadband if it is economically feasible.
Dave Stueck: DMEA needs to remain focused on power and electricity. He witnessed problems in Wyoming where a utility tried to expand into broadband service.
Question: Do you favor revisiting the conflict-of-interest issue with the bylaws?
B.J. Brown: A lot of time was spent on the issue. The board has a good policy in place now.
Terry Brown: The problem has been solved by the board. He doesn’t see a problem with it now.
Thomassen: She believes the DMEA board addressed the issue pretty well.
Whittlesey: If any person has a problem with the policy, they might come to a board meeting and discuss it. She thinks the bylaws address the conflict issue just fine.
Eckhart: The conflict-of-interest policy is subject to interpretation.
Shea: The issue has been addressed.
Stueck: If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
Gavan: The DMEA bylaws seem perfectly adequate.
Question: Give your positions on alternative/renewable energy.
Terry Brown: DMEA is looking at all possible areas for utilizing alternative (renewable) energy sources.
B.J. Brown: The South Canal hydro project supplies DMEA’s 5 percent local renewable limit.
Whittlesey: DMEA needs to negotiate with Tri-State to get the 5 percent local renewable cap raised. There are a lot of good, local sites for small hydro development
Eckhart: Tri-State has no interest in allowing its local member co-ops generating electricity. Tri-State is the monster.
Stueck: DMEA needs government backing to change the 5 percent local generation limit in the Tri-State contract.
Shea: Tri-State is the big hammer. They have all the cards. The DMEA area has an abundance of potential generating sites.
Gavan: Alternative and renewables will be key issues as the power generation industry changes. He generates solar with rooftop panels at home.
Question: Should the time-of-use rate be reinstated?
Answers: The candidates had positive views on the time-of-use rate. They generally liked the program and would favor it being reinstated if possible. A new Tri-State rate structure was blamed for essentially eliminating the time-of-use rate advantage for ratepayers.
Question: State three reasons why you are the best candidate.
B.J. Brown: Experience with people, experience with board/management relations, and experience with large groups of individuals.
Terry Brown: Thirty-seven years of experience with DMEA, three years on the board, and his method of “thinking things through” before making decisions.
Thomassen” Nineteen years running a successful small business, service on the Delta chamber board, and numerous community involvements.
Whittlesey: Professional standing as a CPA and knowledge of financial matters, building a small business from the ground up, and 26 years service on various boards of directors.
Eckhart: Runs a small business with sales worldwide, passionate energy to advocate for solutions that bring results, and he is the candidate who will actually do something about the problems others just talk about.
Shea: A lifelong involvement with the local community, negotiating skills acquired from years in business, and a solid understanding of how co-ops are run.
Stueck: Now retired and has time to devote to the board, has made studies of alternative energy systems, experience from various job assignments provides background needed.
Gavan; Has broad career experience in the technology field, also has experience in the telecom industry, and has pursued energy generation as a personal hobby and SEI board member.