PORT TOWNSEND — A contest has shaped up for a seat on the Jefferson County Public Utility Commission.
Tom Brotherton of Quilcene and Dan Toepper of Port Ludlow have announced their candidacies for the six-year District 3 seat now held by Wayne King.
King has served three terms with the utility, a total of 18 years. He has not said if he plans to seek a fourth term for the seat which represents the West End, Gardiner, Discovery Bay, Brinnon, Port Ludlow and Quilcene. It is a non-partisan position.
Filing week for candidates this election year begins Monday and extends through Friday. The primary election will be Aug. 7 and the general election Nov. 6.
Brotherton, 72, feels the PUD has done well in its start-up phase for electrical service after taking over the electrical utility from Puget Sound Energy in 2013.
“They keep the power on, and it’s green,” he said. “But now, it’s time to become a mature, more customer-oriented company.
“It’s a public company that’s been in business for five years. We need to become more methodical. We need to create a plan that’s strategic and measurable.”
He said that upgrades to septic and water infrastructure are badly needed in District 3. He also would like to see broadband services expanded.
“Even though economic development is not the PUD’s job, any assistance on infrastructure will help attract opportunities,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton said his education and experience gives him “the skills to help the commission mature the PUD, embrace changing technology and improve the community.”
Brotherton holds a bachelor’s in physics, master’s degrees in system engineering and business administration and a law degree, he said.
He believes his business and local government experience will “add a missing element to the commission.”
Brotherton, who retired from the Boeing Company as an engineering manager, has served two terms on the Jefferson County Planning Commission after working as a Jefferson County deputy prosecuting attorney for seven years. He assembled a team of local investors and reopened the Quilcene Village Store in 2011, which had closed in 2009.
He and his wife, Cass, moved to Quilcene in 2005, and have been community activists since their arrival. The couple has two grown sons, a foster child and two grandchildren.
He is currently president of the Quilcene/Brinnon Dollars for Scholars program, which provides scholarships to students and adult learners from Quilcene and Brinnon. He is a founding director and current treasurer for Count Me In for Quilcene, a nonprofit organization.
Brotherton and his wife received the Heart of Service award in 2013 for their community efforts.
Toepper, 58, believes well-defined short- and long-term PUD goals are “critical to fixing budgets, keeping rates low and maintaining a high quality of service and reliability.”
He points out the price and availability of water and energy will fluctuate due to markets, climate and growth, and said that the PUD must be proactive in identifying those trends accurately and honestly.
Clarifying what capital improvements are needed and explaining them must be a priority, he said.
Toepper said communications and outreach have been inadequate, and one of his goals is to help the PUD be more accountable to its customers.
He said he wants to improve the reliability and affordability of services, and to insure that the PUD is approachable and transparent to the community it serves.
Toepper explained that a large portion of the county south of Mount Walker gets its power through Mason 1, but that the PUD still provides water, sewer and telecom services.
He said those people should have better customer service. He said that the Coyle Peninsula has water issues that affect fire service and that should be a priority to address.
Toepper was born in Port Townsend and has lived in the county all his life. He and his wife, Robin, have been married for 34 years. They have four adult children and six grandchildren. He graduated from Chimacum High School in 1978 and entered the local workforce in the timber and fishing industries.
He joined the International Union of Operating Engineers and worked as a heavy equipment operator for 22 years.
Before retiring in 2012, his work had taken him all over the Olympic Peninsula and the Puget Sound region on projects such as shoreline clean-up and habitat restoration to the installation of water, power, sewer and storm drain infrastructure. In 2016, he returned to fulltime work due to a shortage of experienced operators in the region, he said.
Toepper was a member of the PUD Citizens Advisory Board from 2015-17. He regularly attends PUD meetings and workshops, as well as other governmental, economic and organization meetings within the county, he said.
Toepper considers himself an independent, he said. He ran unsuccessfully for freeholder in 2013 and for county commissioner in 2014.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]