I became acquainted with Mike Swanson in 2015-16 when he was being out-voted by the other two PUD Commissioners who were voting in line with the desires of the then general manager. They were making decisions that were “parts” of impossible projects costing our PUD millions.
I say “parts” because there never appeared to be a complete plan that was environmentally doable and/or permitted. I was in the meeting when the former general manager said that the PUD did not need permits! I was one of eight community members who formed an ad hoc committee to change the direction of the Pacific County PUD and put it on a solid footing. Our first concern was for the shell fish growers who found out that the PUD planned to cross their oyster and clam beds with two cables-one near the North River outlet (Hwy 104) to Tokeland and one from Tokeland to Oysterville.
Some of the dead end “part” projects included:
1. Oysterville substation that was supposed to connect to an underwater cable to Tokeland across the Willapa Bay. (2002) The general manager later agreed it wasn’t feasible,
2. The seven miles of transmission line on Hwy 104 to mile marker 7 which was then supposed to go to Tokeland (2002).
3. Purchase of a transformer ($100,000?) that is currently being housed in temperature-controlled space.
4. The purchase of a two-acre area ($165,000) to be the site of a substation near Tokeland.
5. The planned purchase of all the substations, poles, wire, etc. in Grayland in order to serve Pacific County residents there. The area has been served by Grays Harbor PUD since its existence 100 years ago. It would have cost millions plus new lines from Raymond to Grayland (28.5 miles). Half of Grayland is in Grays Harbor County It was a happy day for our ad hoc committee when Dick Anderson was elected to the PUD Commission. At his first meeting, Dick and Mike Swanson voted to halt the effort to take power to Tokeland and on to Grayland. That was a pivotal move for the PUD. There were two bonds, one for $9.5 million and one for $14 million, that were procured for these flaky projects. The PUD is currently paying them off.
What the public needs is a PUD commissioner with good common sense, good business sense and a goal to keep rates low, work well with the ratepayers and support both office and field employees. The Pacific County PUD has the lowest rates of any place on the west side of Washington State and, despite the expensive missteps, will be debt free in 2024.
The current PUD commissioners, Mike Swanson (12 years) Dick Anderson (4 years), and Debbie Oakes (2 years) can all attest that it takes time to really understand how things work at the PUD and what needs to be done for the future. Jason Dunsmore has settled in as general manager to doing positive things with the commissioners’ help. The Commissioners update their 10-year plan annually.
I believe it is important to keep dedicated, knowledgeable people on the PUD Commission. Mike Swanson is doing a good job for the rate payers of Pacific County PUD. He has my vote.