Meet the candidates

LPEA Board election ballots hit local mailboxes

Members of the La Plata Electric Association are encouraged to stay close to their mailboxes. Ballots for the coop’s Board of Director election were mailed today, May 1. Six candidates are vying for three open seats on the 12-member board, which is split into four geographic districts. Each district has three representatives on the Board who serve 3-year terms and are elected yearly on a rotating basis. Members may only vote for candidates running in their district.

Election results will be announced at LPEA’s annual meeting on Thurs., May 22, at Fort Lewis College.

Candidate bios and statements, as provided to LPEA, follow. In each district, the incumbent is listed first. In District 2 (south and west La Plata County), incumbent Davin Montoya is running uncontested, so there will be no election in that district. Due to space constraints and the fact that it is outside our circulation area, District 1 (Archuleta County) was not included:

District 3 - City of Durango

Jeff Berman: An entrepreneur, Berman has served as sales manager for Living Solar, a local solar installation company; CEO of San Juan Bioenergy; and executive director of the nonprofit Colorado Wild. He is also a founding member of the Southwest Colorado Renewable Energy Society.

In the 10 years he has served on the Board, Berman says he has been a diligent advocate for clean energy and energy efficiency, helping members reduce electricity usage over the last three years and playing a leading role in LPEA’s Community Solar Garden. As LPEA’s representative to the statewide lobbying group, the Colorado Rural Electric Association, Berman says he has been working to ensure rural electric coops embraces the move toward cleaner energy.

“I will continue to advocate for greater energy efficiency and clean energy policies that help LPEA’s members keep their bills low, encourage conservation, and increase the percentage of our energy coming from local renewables like solar power,” vows Berman. “I will also continue to promote transparency, rate equity, sound financial decision-making, and careful consideration for current and long-term reliability and safety.”

Bill Waters: Territory Manager for Wagner Equipment, a Caterpillar dealer, Waters is a 57-year native of La Plata County.

He says he and his wife, both fifth-generation natives of La Plata County, are active in the community and have four grown sons.

Waters says the direction LPEA has taken in the last couple years has “troubled” him. His business experience has taught him that volatile energy practices have a big impact on the local economy and residents’ lives. “Electricity must be affordable,” he says. “The less affluent folks in our community should be able to live comfortably and not have to make a choice between groceries and electricity.”

He spoke to the importance of renewable energy but not at the cost of fiscal integrity. “I will judge every project on its merits and not promote any pre-determined agendas ... LPEA is a business and should be run as a business,” says Waters. “I respect diverse opinions and will consider everyone’s ... decisions I make will be in the best interests of the entire cooperative.”

District 4 - north and east La Plata County, Bayfield

Joe Wheeling: With an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, Wheeling is LPEA’s current treasurer as well as the coop’s representative to Tri-State Generation and Transmission, where he is a member of the executive committee.

He is also a partner in James Ranch and former CEO of Red Roof Inns, vice president of Accor North America, and Deloitte Consulting. He is also a member of the Colorado Forum.

 He says he has enjoyed serving on the LPEA Board for the last six years and believes the coop has benefited from his knowledge of business, finance and management. 

He also says his family and James Ranch are grounded in sustainable resource management and environmentally sound enterprises, and the support of the local community makes those tenets the “heart and soul” of his livelihood.

“I feel that I bring a balanced perspective to the LPEA Board, a clear and focused business mind and a sound ethic toward sustainability and local environmental sensitivity,” he says.

Alison Dance: Owner of Cyprus Café and Eno, Dance is a founding member of Local First and the Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado as well as a former member the La Plata Democratic Executive Committee.

As a successful business owner, she says she employs between 30-50 people and pumps more than a million dollars into the local economy yearly through jobs and purchases from local farmers, ranchers and suppliers.

She says she will bring a small business background, a commitment to sustainability and the local economy, and common sense to the LPEA Board. “LPEA has the chance to craft a new energy policy to carry us forward into the 21st century – and that future must include renewables while guaranteeing affordable, reliable electricity,” she says. “Rather than buying our electricity from distant, aging coal-fired plants, let’s keep those energy dollars here in Southwest Colorado. Solar and wind installations create local jobs, ensure clean air and water, and provide stable energy prices in an uncertain energy future.”

LPEA Board members earn $200 per diem, or $125 for half days and work an average of one to two days a month, according to LPEA CEO Greg Munro. They are also reimbursed for expenses and receive $1,000/month for insurance.

Ballots must be received by 4 p.m., Wed., May 21, at the offices of FredrickZink & Associates, 954 E. 2nd Ave. Members also can vote in person at the LPEA annual meeting at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College on May 22. Registration begins at 5 p.m. and anyone voting must do so before 6:30 p.m.