Power District candidates looking to change culture of the board

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OPD Trustee Candidates from left to right: Shawn Hughes, Bill Hurd, Judy Metz, Jim Pugh and Mike Young. David Ballweg was also in attendance, to the left of Hughes. Photo by Kirk Kern.

OPD Trustee Candidates from left to right: Shawn Hughes, Bill Hurd, Judy Metz, Jim Pugh and Mike Young. David Ballweg was also in attendance, to the left of Hughes. Photo by Kirk Kern.

One of the recurring questions asked to candidates for the Overton Power District Board of Trustees Wednesday night was if the current trustees were part of an “old boys network” that just rubber-stamped the wishes of the district’s management.

But since only one of the current trustees campaigning to retain his seat showed up — and his defense was “I’m only of seven” — there wasn’t a lot of defending the current board.

Six candidates for the Overton Power District board attended the Mesquite Press Candidates Forum at Wolf Creek Wednesday night, but only one was an incumbent, James Pugh (District 5). The others were David Ballweg (District 6), Shawn Hughes (at-large), Bill Hurd (at-large), Judy Metz (at-large) and Mike Young (District 5).

Besides the Overton Power District board candidates, there were also four members vying for the Virgin Valley Water District board: Barbara Ellestad, Ted Miller, Sandra Ramaker and Robert “Bubba” Smith. U.S. Congressional District 4 incumbent Steven Horford and challenger Cresent Hardy also participated.

Pugh was appointed to the power district board in 2013. He said he has a list of goals he’d like to accomplish, but hasn’t been able to get very far without cooperation from other board members.

“I have my agenda, but I can’t do it by myself,” he said.

The incumbents who did not attend the forum were Steven Miller (at-large), Michael Wilson (District 4) and Douglas Waite (District 6). Candidate Robert Bunker (District 4) also didn’t attend.

Two candidates, Shawn Hughes and Mike Young, were asked if they had family members who work at Overton Power and both said they didn’t have anyone in their immediate family, although Hughes acknowledged some distant relatives are employed there.

Most of the candidates agreed that the power district needs to look at its management and operations to find ways to decrease overhead before raising rates to customers and also needed to explore the possibility of solar energy usage in an area.

“I urge the board to implement a 10 percent operations reduction before raising rates,” said Ballweg. “There has been no belt-tightening.”

Ballweg has lived in Mesquite since 2008 and owns and operates an electrical power testing equipment manufacturing company.

Hughes is a life-long resident of the Virgin Valley and is operations manager for Virgin Valley Disposal.

Hurd has lived in Mesquite since 2008 and is retired after working 40 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories.

Metz has lived in Overton for 40 years and owns Sugars HomePlate Restaurant. She has previously served on the Overton Town Board.

Incumbent Pugh has lived in the Virgin Valley for seven years and works part-time as a protection and control systems test engineer.

Young has lived in Mesquite for 12 years and worked for a major water and power utility in California for 40 years, rising to the position of head of systems operations.

Comments

  1. While I certainly support belt-tightening at OPD, as their pay scale for lots of employees (and relatives) is off the chart for many. However, simplistic “across the board” reduction in pay would be disastrous. The higher end employees such as well-trained linemen and technicians are highly sought after and their skills are very transferable to other power utilities, such as NV Energy and Rocky Mountain Power, who are in need of such trained and experienced skills. If OPD cuts their pay much, several are likely to go to other employers ….and these are often the highest skilled personnel – thus leaving OPD with a lower level of needed skills. That said, nearly all of the lowest paid people at OPD get a “pay and benefits” package in excess of $50,000 for skills that would pay much less anywhere else – and many, many are relatives or “friends” (part of the local “culture”) of management. Are they the most qualified? Only an open, fair, and independent examination of the hiring processes and a comparison of the pay for these skills in other area companies will reveal that, but this certainly needs to be done if, for nothing else, to invalidate the negative public opinion regarding OPD practices. Let’s hope new and independent trustees will demand these types of inquiries. Sunlight!

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