John Witchel was elected by La Plata Electric Association’s board of directors to fill a seat vacated when Jack D. Turner resigned as a representative in the cooperative’s District 4, which covers northern and eastern parts of La Plata County.
Witchel assumed the position vacated by Turner at the conclusion of Wednesday’s LPEA board meeting.
He will hold the position until the expiration of Turner’s original term through the Annual Member Meeting in 2022.
“Jack Turner was an exceptional board member and leader in our community. I’m grateful for the opportunity to step into his outsized shoes. My hope is that I can make a difference for our membership,” Witchel said in a statement provided by LPEA.
Witchel served as president of GitPrime, an engineering software company that started in Durango and was acquired for $170 million by Pluralsight of Farmington, Utah. Most of the former GitPrime’s Durango operation has been moved to Utah.
In his application seeking the seat, Witchel said, “I love Durango, Pagosa Springs and the surrounding area. I want to give back to the community that has given me and my family so much.”
He cited his leadership and experience in business and energy as qualifications, noting he has worked in solar financing, with Tesla Energy, Solar Mosaic and Wunder Capital.
A total of 19 LPEA members applied for the open seat.
LPEA’s board of directors reviewed applicants and selected four finalists for interviews which took place Monday.
The finalists were Pam Patton, George Hepner, Guinn Unger and Witchel.
The board of directors conducted three rounds of anonymous voting, dropping the candidate with the fewest votes each round before Witchel gained seven votes.
Six votes were needed to be elected.
Turner was present for his final meeting, but he abstained from voting for his replacement.
Witchel joins Tim Wheeler and Sue McWilliams representing District 4.
Turner, who had been accused of no longer living in the district, announced his resignation at the July board of director’s meeting.
Jack D. Turner is not the Jack Turner who is running as an independent candidate for La Plata County commissioner in the upcoming November election.
Questions about Turner’s residency arose in spring 2019, and he was reviewed three times about whether he was still living in the district and eligible to run in the upcoming LPEA election. He was deemed eligible each time.
Turner was seen as an LPEA board member who was supportive of exploring a separation from its power provider, Tri-State Generation and Transmission.
LPEA is exploring a buyout of its 30-year contract from Tri-State in an effort to generate more renewable power locally, an amount now capped at about 5% by Tri-State. LPEA also is exploring if it can obtain cheaper electricity on the open market.
Turner served on the board for seven years and had won re-election in 2019, beating challenger Sarah Ferrell, 1,277 votes to 969.