I believe Thurston water system customers have a fundamental right to safe and plentiful drinking water. Through the past six years as your PUD Commissioner, I have averaged 30 days per year of continuing education. I am a certified elected PUD official in water and wastewater.
Often the PUD has had to take over aging and distressed water systems, and upgrade them to ensure safe and dependable water service. I understand the facts about water management. I know where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to be.
I’m a native Washingtonian and have lived in Thurston County for 20 years. My great grandparents lived on Tullis Street in Olympia. I have family members who have worked in rural PUDs and share their commitment to honoring and respecting our environment. I have deep roots in this community and a strong, personal desire to leave a clean, livable, and sustainable Thurston County for future generations.
I value the many public partnerships necessary to ensure our customers have safe water. My background in management and leadership supports the PUD when working with our state, county and local elected officials on water availability and finance issues. We must maintain a strong working relationship with state agencies, including the Department of Health for water testing and treatment, and the Department of Ecology for underground water source evaluation. We have Memoranda of Understanding with other municipal jurisdictions and hire private companies for specialized services such as hydrogeology and engineering. Water is a non-partisan issue, and we should forge partnerships based on a goal of mutual problem-solving.
The PUD does not provide telecommunications services at this time. There are several reasons for this. First, the PUD does not currently have retail telecommunications authority and would need to work with an internet service provider to provide the services. Second, telecommunications infrastructure is very expensive to install. Thurston PUD does not have the financial ability to invest in telecommunications infrastructure. The PUD has entered into legal agreements concerning our bonding and bond covenants which require extensive financial reserve requirements. Thurston PUD does not have the additional revenues to support broadband infrastructure investment. Third, the PUD cannot use water revenues to provide or support telecommunications services and is prohibited from using the revenues of one utility to fund another by state law.
The PUD commissioned a telecommunications feasibility study in 2015, which was shared with the cities of Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey and the Port of Olympia as the PUD does not have wholesale authority and needed partners.
In 2012 our annual budget was nearly $2 million. It is now $5 million. The PUD, with my leadership and support, has adopted a complete Asset Management Plan for our newly acquired water systems and to assess equitable surcharge rates. We have refined and published our six-year Capital Improvement Plan. We now integrate newly-acquired systems into our standardized rate structure, and re-evaluate rates on a quarterly basis.
I will continue to find new means to communicate with our customers so that they are informed about their water systems and the benefits of viable, sustainable conservation. We now publish conservation tips on the PUD website and in the newsletter accompanying our bills. I support continuing to hold meetings, including mandated rate hearings, and providing written communication about PUD rates. It is incumbent upon the PUD to always listen to our customers’ concerns and appreciate their needs.
In the past six years, the PUD has expanded from 140 water systems to 274 with 7,900 customers, doubling the total customers served by the PUD. As a result, we have increased staff from 12 to 25 and moved into a larger, conveniently-located facility to help us provide cost-effective service for our utility customers. We have worked hard to recruit and retain qualified, customer-service employees by keeping salaries fair and providing competitive benefits and retirement plans. Our skilled field operations staff members, now located on Highway 99, ensure the PUD continues to run efficiently and can quickly respond to customers’ concerns.