Clallam PUD makes commissioner selection

The Clallam County Public Utility District commissioners have selected Phyllis E. Bernard following a 30-minute executive session on April 8, replacing the late Commissioner Jim Waddell, who died Feb.5.

Bernard was at the April 8 meeting and accepted the position saying, “I appreciate the honor.” She’ll start May 1.

The three candidate finalists, all with Port Angeles addresses, were Bernard, Kenneth P. Reandeau and Kenneth Simpson.

A fourth candidate, Gary R. Smith of Port Angeles, withdrew his application.

PUD Commissioner John Purvis said on April 8 each candidate would have brought a wealth of knowledge and perspective to the board.

Waddell, 70, died in February of pancreatic cancer. He had represented the Clallam PUD’s District 3 since 2019 after he defeated Simpson in the 2018 election. He also had served as board president in 2023 and 2024.

State law gives the two remaining commissioners 90 days to appoint a replacement for the remainder of the unexpired term, which runs until the certification of the November 2024 general election.

Clallam PUD General Manager Sean Worthington said a May 1 start date would be ideal.

A Clallam PUD commissioner earns a monthly salary of $3,238, plus a per diem of $161 for meetings attended on the district’s behalf, to a maximum annual compensation of $61,396. Commissioners also are eligible for group insurance for themselves, their immediate family and dependents.

Both Purvis and fellow commissioner Ken Hays expressed concern about appointing someone so close to the election cycle with Purvis saying his decision was “not clear cut.” However, he cited Bernard’s extensive work history and ability to help with challenges ahead.

Hays said his initial leanings were different and he encouraged all three candidates to run for the position because they all “bring valuable and unique skills.”

About the candidates

Bernard earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in American history from Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a juris doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

Bernard served on the board of directors of Southwest Power Pool Inc. of Little Rock, Ark., a nonprofit regional transmission organization, from 2003-2019. She also served as a commissioner for the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission and has served as a commissioner-at-large for Olympic Medical Center since July 2023.

Bernard said the move to electrification, including electric vehicles, could fall disproportionately on lower income people, which is not fair.

“When we’re talking about green energy, it has to be green for environment but also for the wallet. And I would include electric vehicles. They are too expensive. My husband and I are on Social Security so we are better off than the West End,” she said.

Regarding the proposed removal of the four Lower Snake River dams and the recent memorandum of understanding between the federal government and Northwest tribes and states, Bernard said the “intense” conversations need to be toned down.

“I read the 19 pages. Let’s stop beating up on each other and take a breath. At least that is how I read it. What I want to see is the innovation to make the dams more user friendly to the fish.

“There’s ways of doing that. We need to make sure the information we are using is the current information,” she said.

Reandeau graduated from Port Angles High School in 1970 and studied automotive technology at Peninsula College for a year. He worked in various roles at Crown Zellerbach and its successors, including lead operator and elected officer of his union local, from July 1971 to October 2006, when he retired.

He said the state’s goal of requiring electric utilities serving at least 25,000 retail customers to use renewable energy by 2050 is too far in the future.

“I think 2050 is too slow. I’ve been advocating for the transition to electric vehicles for five years. I’ve been advocating here and at the county to make that transition. I’ve been advocating electrification of all kinds of electrification.

“This equipment is becoming available. There’s four chargers installed at the county courthouse but they aren’t being used and I can’t get an answer why,” Reandeau said.

Regarding the Snake River dams, Reandeau said they should be removed for the sake of the river’s fish and that the power could be replaced.

“I just think they should be gone, quite honestly. They have decimated various fish species, not just salmon. Now that I understand that, I’m trying to atone for it.

“We found the energy to replace the Elwha Dam. We will find the energy to replace these dams. I don’t think they will be viable for too much longer,” he said.

Simpson earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations/business from Washington State University and graduated from Puget Sound Electrical (Joint Apprentice Training Committee) school. He worked as an apprentice electrician at Power City Electric in Spokane from 1992-1993 and as an apprentice electrician at Angeles Electric from 1990-1995.

He has worked as a journeyman electrician at Angeles Electric since 1995, an estimator since 1996 and president since 2012. He is the son of former Clallam PUD commissioner Ted Simpson.

Simpson said it will be interesting to see how electric vehicles play out. Eventually, there will be enough electric vehicles and chargers that everyone will want to use them but there’s issues with them that need to be addressed, he said.

Simpson said the 19-page memorandum of understanding regarding the Lower Snake River dams was “a fun read” and he appreciated that it noted the need to replace the energy supplied by the four dams.

“The meat of it indicated that president directed everyone to consult with the tribes about how to restore the fish runs. It was good to include a requirement for a clean and efficient energy supply to the region. Where we get that power and at what cost? I’m glad they included it,” he said.