PORT ANGELES — A longtime Clallam County Public Utility District commissioner has a challenger in the upcoming Nov. 6 general election.
On Thursday, a day after retired civil engineer James Waddell said he would seek Ted Simpson’s six-year West End-District 3 board position, Simpson said he will run for re-election.
Filing week for the PUD and county offices begins Monday and extends through Friday.
Simpson, a 33-year incumbent who, if re-elected, will be 82 when his six-year term is up, said he had been leaning toward retirement from the board rather than a seventh term.
That changed when Port Angeles-area District 2 PUD Commissioner Hugh Haffner decided to resign in July, leaving two years on his term and forcing Haffner and Sequim-area District 1 Commissioner Will Purser to choose a replacement and Simpson to provide, he said, “continuity” to the board.
“That certainly has had an impact on my decision to run,” said Simpson, who turns 76 in October.
“If I need to, I can resign” during his six-year term, he added. “At this time, yes, I will fill out the term.”
Simpson and Waddell live in the Port Angeles-area ZIP code west of the city limit but within the geographical boundaries of District 3.
Waddell, 65, emailed a brief statement Wednesday to Peninsula Daily News announcing his candidacy, touting his experience in and knowledge of dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers and citing “the many challenges and opportunities associated with hydro power generation and how they related to our PUD.”
Waddell, a Nashville native who moved to Port Angeles in 2009 and has four children, said Thursday he favors breaching and “basically mothballing” both dams.
He wants the PUD, a countywide special taxing district, to change course on hydroelectric power.
“After about a year and a half, I started realizing they were really pushing hydropower as a key source of power and everything that makes it all wonderful,” Waddell said. “I realized that was an overstatement in terms of viability.”
He said the district is too closely aligned with the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets hydropower from the two dams.
“The PUD is making a mistake,” he said. “We ought to have other power resources like wind and solar. There are already existing sources that are in some cases cheaper than hydropower.”
Simpson said he is against decommissioning the dams and that wind and solar power are too unpredictable to be relied upon.
“Wind is, for the most part, fickle,” Simpson said. “It’s not as reliable as a river, from what we know today, and anybody that wants to predict what the weather is going to do 20 years from now is in the wind.”
Simpson said the PUD’s switch from gas and diesel to more reliance on electricity to meet transportation needs will require more infrastructure and more electric-line capacity.
Simpson said he is “more realistic about what we are trying to accomplish and what you have to do to get it done” than Waddell.
Simpson, owner of Angeles Electric, was first elected in 1984 to Port Angeles-area District 2 by defeating Clint Hulse. He was unopposed in 1990; defeated Larry Williams, who later became a City Council member, for the District 3 slot in 1994 after he moved; was unopposed in 2000; and defeated Cindy Kelly in 2006 and 2012.
A PUD commissioner is paid $27,420 a year and is eligible to receive PUD health insurance. Per diem payments for PUD meetings and events raises the total maximum compensation to $43,380.
Commissioners can receive 75 cents per mile compensation for use of a personal vehicle for PUD-related business compared to the IRS rate of 54.5 cents per mile.
The PUD has 125 employees, 30,000 electric utility customers including 5,000 water customers and 60 sewer customers. The 2018 budget is $67 million for the electric utility, $7 million for the water utility and $52,500 for the sewer utility.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].