Account holders voted firmly to retain the most experienced La Plata Electric Association board member from La Plata County, and voted convincingly to retain a second incumbent in last weekend’s annual meeting.
Britt Bassett has served two terms on the board and defeated by two to one former engineer Gene Fisher.
Kohler McInnis, who was elected three years ago and who represents LPEA on the energy provider Tri-State Generation and Distribution’s board, defeated Jeff Mannix, writer and co-organizer of the annual Durango Cowboy Gathering, by the equivalent of three to two.
The third contested seat in La Plata County went narrowly, very narrowly, to challenger Tim Wheeler. Wheeler, who has a background in technology and retail and is a visible and vocal advocate for shopping locally, upset one-term incumbent Karen Barger by 17 votes.
Barger, gracious in defeat, said the result is an example of why every vote in an election counts.
In Archuleta County, longtime member and former county commissioner Bob Formwalt was clearly defeated by newcomer Kristen Skeehan.
For all contests, the winners are being seated this morning.
Turnout was about 26 percent, not much different than it has been in recent years.
The election was largely about how aggressively LPEA should be studying the possibility of freeing itself from Tri-State’s 70 percent fossil fuels and 30 percent renewables energy sources and increasing the amount of green power.
The LPEA board, in conjunction with its leadership staff, should move promptly to prepare a thorough study of the economic ramifications of ending its obligations to Tri-State and acquiring the ability to independently source its energy.
If the cost looks to be too high, as some predict, it would be time to move on to other issues.
It might turn out to be possible, initially, to buy out only a portion of the commitment to Tri-State, say 20 percent, and replace that with energy from renewables (as it stands, all the 42 Tri-State co-ops, LPEA included, are limited to just 5 percent).
That 20 percent might not only be easier to pay for, but also better reflect the availability of local renewable energy. And, until there are much higher capacity batteries than there are today, 24-hour uninterrupted service from a renewables-only system is impossible.
Let’s have an analysis by this fall, perhaps, so that members can weigh the costs.
In the meantime, congratulations to the winners and thanks to those who made the races a contest.