After more than a decade in public office, two-term incumbent Mike Swanson is trying for a third six-year term on the PUD No. 2 Board of Commissioners in the upcoming general election.
First elected to the board in 2008, Swanson, a lifelong Naselle resident, is one of two elected officials seeking a third term in office in Pacific County this year. Swanson has owned businesses in the county for several decades, including the Rosburg Store, and is currently the broker and owner of Mike Swanson Realty.
Chinook Observer: What will you advocate for changing or keeping unchanged in the near term if elected to a term on the PUD board?
Mike Swanson: I don’t plan to advocate for anything other than the status quo: Well-run utility, and the lowest electric rates in Western Washington. In my 11 years and 9 months as a PUD commissioner I feel that the utility is functioning better now than at any previous time as a commissioner. I will do my best to continue this direction.
CO: The position of PUD commissioner is well compensated — $3,000 a month, $120/day meeting per diem, health/dental/vision insurance, travel perks, etc. What about the job makes it worth that kind of money, and what will you specifically do to earn it?
MS: Just to be transparent and accurate, the actual salary is $2,567.00 per month and $128 is paid for each attended meeting (the Washington State Legislature is responsible for setting the salary and per meeting compensation). The commissioner position is very well compensated and I am grateful to have had the trust and confidence of the ratepayers/owners and voters that selected me to represent them on the commission. We are responsible for a $30.6 million budget.
CO: How do you envision the PUD adapting in the next two or three decades to address climate change and state/federal regulations relating to that issue?
MS: The district is currently in the 10th year of a 17-year contract with BPA as a Slice/Block customer. The district meets 98-plus% of its current energy needs through clean renewable hydro, wind, solar and nuclear power. The district is mandated to be 100% carbon neutral by 2030 and 100% carbon free by 2045 per the Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA).
The district will be negotiating the renewal of the BPA contract over the next four years with finalization by 2025. The district will meet these thresholds through renewable power and energy credit (REC) purchase contracts, all while maintaining the reliability and low cost of the system that the customer/owners currently enjoy. The district is also working with Energy NW on grant funding to install a Class III EV charging station in Ilwaco and Raymond along the SR101 corridor.
CO: Customers mostly appreciate our PUD’s low rates and high level of reliability, but despite being ratepayer-owned, the agency’s decisions and inner workings are nearly invisible to the public. What will you do to change that?
MS: Our bi-monthly meetings are open to the public and our website shares what is going on with their utility. We have tried evening meetings but have not had any different response from the public.
Customers are able to request any information that they may need from the district. District staff is there to help our customers/owners in getting the information they need and to provide safe, reliable, low cost utility services 24/7, 365 days a year.
CO: What makes you a better selection than your opponent for this important board?
MS: My experience in owning two successful, small businesses for almost 40 years has given me confidence and common sense. My experience, almost 12 years, as your PUD commissioner has kept me focused and mindful of the ratepayers/owners who elected me to represent them. The commissioner’s duties require a lot of reading and has a very steep learning curve. Our ratepayers/owners have a lot invested in my experience and I would like to continue to use it for their benefit.