Eight candidates vie for seats on La Plata Electric board

Monday, March 19, 2018 8:07 AM

Eight candidates will compete for four open seats on the La Plata Electric Association's board of directors during the upcoming May election, the co-op announced last week.

Also in this year's election, LPEA members will have the chance to weigh in on 10 proposed bylaw changes, including whether board candidates should be required to disclose campaign contributions.

LPEA members will vote for a board director to represent their district. Each district has three representatives on the board.

In Durango, District 3, Gene Fisher, a former engineer and builder, is challenging Britt Bassett, a founder of CalCom Solar, which installs solar arrays in California.

In southern and western La Plata County, District 1, incumbent Kohler McInnis, an entrepreneur and business investment adviser, is competing with Jeff Mannix, a writer and rancher.

In District 4, northern and eastern La Plata County, incumbent Karen Barger, owner of Seasons Rotisserie Grill, is running against Tim Wheeler, a former engineer and manager in the high-tech industry and former owner of Durango Coffee Co.

In Archuleta County, District 1, Kirsten Skeehan, co-owner of Pagosa Baking Co., is running against incumbent Bob Formwalt, rancher and water commissioner.

Renewable power generation and electricity rates could drive the debate during this year's election. Candidates' written statements, which will be mailed to voters, tend to focus on keeping up with advances in green technology and protecting the co-op from financial risk.

The current board supports the proposed campaign finance rule and other proposed bylaw changes being presented to the voters.

"I believe LPEA should be completely transparent in how campaigns are funded," said board member Doug Lyon. "I believe we owe that to the membership and to the community."

Former LPEA board member Pam Patton recommended LPEA change its campaign finance rules a few months ago, said Ron Meier, LPEA's manager of engineering and member relations.

"I think campaign financing has been and is becoming a greater concern in our society related to governmental elections, and that concern has started to spill over to other entities such as LPEA," he said.

The new campaign finance law likely wouldn't apply to candidates in the upcoming election, Meier said. But Lyon encourages those competing to voluntarily disclose contributions.

"LPEA elections are becoming contested, which is a good thing. Whenever you have a situation like that, it's important to have transparency," he said.

Voters will be asked to extend the notice of an LPEA election from 60 days to 75 days before the day of the election. The co-op will also ask members to change the deadline for filing a petition to run for the board from 45 days to 60 days before an election. LPEA staff recommended the change in deadlines.

"We have had very tight turnarounds due to the current bylaws," Meier said.

Election materials and ballots are scheduled to be mailed to all members April 17. The election results will be announced May 12 at the member meeting.

A presentation about the bylaw changes can be found at