For those of you who have spent most of your lives in this community, you may be asking — who the heck am I and why have I been asked to write this column?
Well, I am Chelan PUD’s new general manager and come here after growing up in many parts of our country (Kentucky, North Carolina, Connecticut, California and Michigan) before entering a public administration graduate program at a university slightly to the south. I went that direction for two reasons. I wanted a career that engaged my greatest motivation — seeking to make a positive and meaningful difference in people’s lives, and although I had never visited the Pacific Northwest, the natural beauty was alluring. My days as a Duck were followed by a 32-year career at the publicly owned, not for profit Bonneville Power Administration, where I retired earlier this year after 12 years as the CEO.
So why take on this job? Four reasons:
- A great mission. The PUD’s goal is to strive to improve the quality of life for the people of Chelan County. It’s a not-for-profit that focuses on customer/owner satisfaction as its primary objective. It fits with where I have dedicated my life.
- Great physical assets. The enormity of the vision that led this county to develop 2,000 megawatts of low-cost, non-polluting hydropower (a staggering amount for a county of this size) is inspiring. It also means the PUD must be active in electric power policy development in the state, Pacific Northwest, across the west and in Washington, D.C., because it has much at stake.
- Great people. Electricity is harder than rocket science and just as dangerous. It takes great people to manage a system of this size. The PUD is fortunate to have smart, talented people who are dedicated to the mission of putting customer/owners first.
- Great location. In my drives around the county, the topography repeatedly stuns me. This is a land that can compete with any spot on earth for its varied expressions of natural beauty.
While I have extensive experience, I still have much to learn to be good at this job.
A successful public servant reflects the values of the people being served. Yet this is a place that is still somewhat new to me.
I hope this column can be one of many vehicles for dialogue to help me better understand the values of the community. I look forward to hearing from you.
Steve Wright is general manager of Chelan County Public Utility District. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org