La Plata Electric Association has named a new CEO to lead the co-op as it studies ways to diversify power supply in an effort to cut carbon.
The LPEA board selected Jessica Matlock, assistant general manager of a public utility in Washington, to replace CEO Mike Dreyspring, who has led the co-op since 2014. Dreyspring announced in September he planned to retire in about a year.
Matlock works for the Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1, the 12th largest public utility in the U.S. Her current responsibilities include customer and energy services and external and government affairs. She has also led the district’s efforts to develop and operate solar energy, energy efficiency and electrification of transportation programs.
Manager of Engineering and Member Relations Ron Meier declined to release Matlock’s salary.
“It’s not our current business practice to release that information,” he said.
The information must be formally requested through the co-op’s board policy procedure, but that process would not produce an answer by Thursday, he said. The Durango Herald filed a formal request Thursday afternoon seeking the salary amount.
The co-op is a nonprofit and must report how much its CEO earns to the federal government. In 2017, Dreyspring earned $296,896 in salary and benefits. But Meier said Matlock’s earnings will not be the same as Dreyspring’s and declined to say if Matlock’s salary would be higher or lower.
LPEA board member Kohler McInnis said Matlock stood out among a field of qualified candidates.
“She had very positive energy, good experience and a strong vision looking forward,” he said.
Matlock will start July 22. Dreyspring said he plans help with the transition as needed.
Dreyspring said he expects Matlock will face several challenges, including cutting LPEA’s carbon and guiding the development of regional broadband through LPEA’s affiliate FastTrack Communications. FastTrack provides middle-mile fiber.
The LPEA board set a goal in January to reduce the co-op’s carbon footprint 50 percent from 2018 levels by 2030. Reaching that goal could require LPEA to seek a new power supplier to replace Tri-State Generation and Transmission, a wholesaler heavily reliant on coal.
Dreyspring said he expects Matlock’s experience in energy policy will be helpful as LPEA works to cut carbon.
Matlock said she would be interested in working with Tri-State on options that could allow LPEA to pursue more renewable energy. She is particularly interested in building a relationship with Tri-State’s new CEO.
LPEA has struggled to pursue renewable energy because it is contracted to buy 95% of its energy from Tri-State until 2050.
Matlock said she has worked on energy policy for about 20 years. Recently, she oversaw staff who worked with the governor’s office in Washington on a new clean energy bill to ensure the proposed law would allow utilities to maintain reliability of the grid and keep rates affordable, while they work to reduce carbon, she said.
It could be useful for LPEA to take a more active role talking with legislators about clean energy policy, she said.
Matlock was a lead energy expert for the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a power marketing specialist and a constituent account executive for the state of Idaho.
She holds a master’s of public administration from Portland State University and a Bachelor of Science in chemical oceanography from the University of Washington.
She grew up on a horse ranch in Morrison and said she considers the move to Colorado a homecoming that will allow her to be closer to her family.
“I’m pretty excited to serve my state and the people that live there,” she said.