Ilwaco resident Pam Hickey is vying for a seat on the PUD No. 2 Board of Commissioners this November, and will need to unseat an incumbent commissioner in order to do so.
Hickey previously worked 25 years as a product manager, merchandise manager and information systems project manager at Levi Strauss & Co. and at Williams-Sonoma. Since moving to Ilwaco in 1999, she worked for 10 years as the office manager for the Chinook Water District, and established a business consulting company that works with nonprofit organizations on the peninsula.
Chinook Observer: What will you advocate for changing or keeping unchanged in the near term if elected to a term on the PUD board?
Pam Hickey: I will advocate for having all accounts payable (bills) and current budget reviews take place during public meetings. This will provide much needed transparency for the public.
To decrease costs, I will advocate to repeal the current insurance benefit package provided for Commissioners retiring with 18 years of service. This package includes medical, dental, vision, and life insurance for life for the commissioner and spouse and any dependent children. My opponent voted for this benefit on Dec. 6, 2016 and will be eligible to receive this if he wins this election. This benefit is not offered to any other commissioners in Pacific County.
CO: The position of PUD commissioner is well compensated — $3,000 a month, $120/day meeting per diems, 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?
PH: The compensation rates, expense guidelines, and group insurance are set by the state of Washington in RCW 54.12.080, therefore, I cannot tell you how they arrived at these figures.
I believe the compensation and benefits for this job are very generous compared to compensation for hospital and water district commissioners. If elected, I will donate 10% of my base salary each year to a nonprofit group that helps people in need pay their utility bills. In addition, if elected, to save money in the budget during this pandemic, I will not take medical or dental insurance for the first year in office. Based on Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2019 report on cost of benefits for companies, I estimate that this is a savings of about $12,000 for PUD No. 2.
Both the state of Washington and PUD No. 2 state that this is a nonpartisan part-time job.
Per Washington state law, commissioners are elected to represent the interest of the ratepayers and oversee the operation of the district. If elected, I will work tirelessly in the interest of the 18,002 ratepayers.
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?
PH: The majority of state/federal regulations cover the production of energy. PUD No. 2 does not produce energy, it purchases energy from BPA (Bonneville Power Authority). Eighty-six percent of the electricity produced by BPA is hydro, the cleanest possible energy to produce. The balance of energy is a mix of nuclear and wind. By 2025 BPA will meet long term renewable energy targets with wind power.
Currently the biggest issue for this industry is that energy, unlike water, cannot be stored for an appreciable length of time. This issue, called distributed energy storage, is being worked on by scientists around the world and will be solved in the near future. Once this issue is solved more alternative energy can be added to the grid.
I will advocate for a plan to look into emerging technologies and create a road map for the future of our PUD in this area. Examples of these technologies include, but are not limited to; distributed energy storage, wireless transmission of power, battery storage, wave technology, micro-grids, and using microprocessors to increase flexibility.
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?
PH: I would advocate for year-round access to bi-monthly meetings via computer and phones.
Sending employees to local schools for career days to discuss jobs available at PUD No. 2 and the education necessary to do them will increase awareness of what PUD does and help develop future employees.
Explain the role of PUD No. 2 by speaking to local groups such as Rotary business associations, and town meetings.
In addition to keeping the PUD No. 2 website and Facebook page up to date, partnering with the Chinook Observer on articles will inform the public of what PUD has achieved and where it is going.
CO: What makes you a better selection than your opponent for this important board?
PH: I believe that a commissioner should have a strong business background in order to oversee a $30 million utility budget. My 25 years of successfully running businesses for Levi Strauss & Company and Williams-Sonoma plus 10 year’s experience in utilities give me a unique background. My strengths include communications, computer systems selection and implementation, finance including reports to the state of Washington, grant/loan writing and administration for utilities, rate setting, research, Washington State laws pertaining to utilities. The largest budget I oversaw was $350 million.
My intention, if elected, is to use what I have learned in past jobs to improve our PUD.