Being a responsible Pedernales Electric Cooperative member isn’t for sissies. After prying open the doors of secrecy and self-perpetuating elections, members now face the task of choosing among 58 candidates running for 5 seats at the table of the Johnson City co-op.
Members began receiving their ballots and the resumes for the candidates in the mail this week. For an up close look, members can visit the PEC website and view 2 minute videos of the 51 candidates who participated in the candidate forum a few weeks ago.
The good news is that a blind member could throw darts at the list of candidates and come up with a qualified person for every seat. Read their platforms, view their videos or chat with them at PEC meetings or court appearances, and you will find qualified, honest, trustworthy citizens who are willing to devote their energy to serving the cooperative for the next few years.
Although members run for seats on the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors in districts, voting for directors is area wide. Members have the opportunity to vote for a candidate in each of the five races on the ballot this year.
Several candidates are well known in their own districts, but how can members decide who to vote for in districts outside their own? Every candidate promises a commitment to openness, transparency and fiscal responsibility. All applaud the dedication of PEC employees and pledge to keep electric rates low. It may come down to the luck of the draw.
Many statewide down ballot primary races have been decided weeks before the election based on the placement of the candidates’ names on the ballot. Voters seem to have a preference for the first name they encounter when faced with a list of names. Gazing at a list of 5 to 20 names per seat may see members fall back on the old habit.
In case you don’t have the perseverance to read the candidate bio’s included in the ballot envelopes or listen to the candidate videos online at the PEC website, here are a few, random kernels of information for voters’ to consider.
Voting by mail or online concludes June 13, so there’s still plenty of time to do your candidate research. More information (maybe some scandal?) might surface prior to the June 13 deadline.
Kathryn Scanlon (District 3), Patrick Cox (District 7), David Collins (District 5) and Dr. Charles Tesar (District 6) are marketing themselves as a coalition based on a shared commitment to a set of principles under the moniker CORE (for Conservation, Openness, Responsible Management and Ethics). There’s no CORE candidate for District 2.
Many in HSB know Sandy Jenkins who is running for Director in District 2. Not only did Jenkins draw the coveted first slot in her race, she owns the Double Eagle Ranch outside Marble Falls, is active in CASA for the Highland Lakes and the Hill Country Community Theater, and founded the Plungettes. If members want “access” to this candidate, all they need to do is show up at a charity fundraiser and she’ll probably be there.
Watching the videos can give members a more personal feel for the candidates, but of course not everyone does well in front of a camera, especially since many performed their 2 minute tango late in the evening, after sitting through dozens of their competitors’ routines.
Attorneys Howard Siegel and Carlos Higgins are vying to be District 3 Director. Heaven knows that the PEC needs some legal expertise to balance the advice it has been getting for the past 40 years.
Higgins has been very active deciphering the class action settlement maze, and spoke compellingly on behalf of objectors before the judge in Austin. Higgins has broad utility regulation experience and has been generous in helping members follow the PEC saga.
Siegel brought down the house when he told the PEC board at their April meeting, “The PEC should not pay any of the settlement. If the insurance company wants to pay the $2.6 million in attorneys fees, that should be enough for the attorneys. And I’m an attorney!”
Twenty people have filed for the District 7 Director seat left vacant by the resignation of former President Bud Burnett. Candidates have credentials in business, the electric industry, government and engineering. There’s even a former minor league baseball manager (Norman Macht) and a news editor (Patrick Cox).
The first name on the list in District 7 is Amelia Lopez-Phelps who promises to give members information about issues before they go to a vote by the board and to broadcast board meetings live. Certainly a change from the low tech dynasty cloistered from members’ view of former General Manager Bennie Fuelberg.
Number two on the list is Sally Hicks Barto, dedicated to bolstering energy efficient efforts at the PEC and “two way communication” between the board and members. The resumes and sincerity of the rest of the candidates for District 7 are impressive. Serious business acumen, public service and dedication to shaping up the cooperative flow from all the candidates.
The last name on the District 7 list offers an interesting bit of history. This is not the first rodeo for self-made man, Herschel McCullough of Wimberley. In 1999, he tried to get on the PEC board, gave his credentials over the phone to the powers at PEC headquarters, but received a prompt call informing him that he was not qualified for the board. He founded a successful power generation company and supplied battlefield generators for our military services, but was told he was not qualified to serve on his co-op board.
According to PEC bylaws, only directors can vote on co-op business. Voters should pay particular attention to their choice of candidates for the three voting positions in District 2, 3 and 7. But advisory directors will also be elected in two districts. District 5 includes Horseshoe Bay and Johnson City. District 6 includes Canyon Lake and Blanco.
The only incumbent seeking re-election, Advisory Director for District 5, D.L. Ruff of Menard, sounds sincere in his video, saying he approves the changes at the PEC and anticipates that more changes are on the horizon. He admits that this is the first time members are able to participate in a full, free election, and encourages everyone to vote. Ironically, the reason that this is the first true election in PEC history is because of the actions of current and prior directors.
Ten qualified candidates have filed to run against Ruff for the District 5 Advisory Director, all pledging to bring openness and transparency to the decision making at the PEC.
David Collins, the first name listed for District 5, emphasizes conservation, especially the sustainable use of natural resources and renewable technology. Blanco attorney David Allen Hall drew the last spot on the District 5 listing. Hall, also an engineer, served on a cooperative board for 12 years “with honesty and integrity” and says he “never stole a nickel.”
In District 5, Horseshoe Bay Justice of the Peace Richard Owen drew the #5 position, and promises members that he “will not become a PEC employee, accept pay, free health insurance” or other perks from the co-op.
Dale Rodman drew #6 position and pledges to keep electricity costs low by “eliminating excess costs” such as excessive board compensation, highly paid lobbyists and the advertising budget.
Paul Langston is listed as the 9th candidate on the ballot for the District 5 slot, and in his video he complimented all the candidates as being talented and able people. “No matter who you vote for, it will be a winner.”
In the pole position in District 6, David Bethancourt shows a history of civic involvement and the stamina to successfully lead a fight against annexation of his subdivision near Wimberley.
The last name on the District 6 list is retired high school teacher and technology director James Caudell. He relates a lesson he learned as a student that still guides him. “If you tell the truth, you won’t have to remember what you said.”
This election is about ethics, honesty and fairness because prior boards forgot about the lessons they learned as students.
Invest a few hours to learn about your choices in this election; they’re a pretty impressive group of candidates. If you can’t make up your mind, you can endorse the “luck of the draw” and check the first name listed for each seat. Or, turn the tables and put your checkmark by the last name on each list and turn around the “luck of the draw.”