Take a look at the Candidate Interview for Skagit PUD District 2 – Courtesy of the Skagit Valley Herald.
Name: Robbie Robertson
District: Skagit PUD District 2
Public Service Experience: Elected PUD Commissioner, 2000; Re-elected PUD Commissioner, 2006; President of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association (WPUDA), 2010; Executive Board Member WPUDA, 2008-2011.
Member, Skagit Council of Governments
Member, Washington State Department of Health Water Advisory Group
Chairman, Water Committee – Washington Public Utility Districts Assoc. (WPUDA)
Member, WPUDA Telecommunications Committee
Member, WPUDA Government Affairs Committee
President, Washington Public Utility Districts Association (2010)
Board Member, WPUDA Executive Committee (2007-2011)
Board Member, WPUDA Budget Committee (2005, 2006, 2012-2016)
Founding Member, Economic Development Association of Skagit County (1986-1988)
Chairman, Citizen Committee, PUD System Development Fund Review (1984-1985)
Chairman, EDASC Membership Committee (1986-1987)
Mount Vernon Citizens Patrol (Mt Vernon COPP’s)
Conway Youth Soccer Coach
Professional Background: Vice president, Manager Special Credits, Whidbey Island Bank; 30 years local banking, mortgage banking and national construction lending management
Education: MBA School of Mortgage Banking, Ohio State University, the University of Alabama at Huntsville, Shoreline Community College, San Diego Mesa College
Editor’s note: The answers below were submitted by the candidate and appear here in their entirety.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE?
For the last 17.5 years, I have shown, through my proposals and votes, that I have no agenda other than to provide the best tasting, cleanest, and most affordable water for the citizens of Skagit County. To best serve Skagit PUD and its ratepayers, the Commissioners need to be ready and willing to get their hands dirty today while preparing for the needs and demands of tomorrow. Over nearly two decades of service to the PUD, it has been a honor to be a part of a workforce whose staff engineers, operators and management develop and implement plans to advance our infrastructure and water quality while still remaining staunch protectors of the environment.
If re-elected, the 3 priorities for me will be:
- Continuing to advance and enhance the quality and morale of Skagit PUD employees;
- Finalize implementation of our 5-year strategic planning initiative which will guide the PUD’s decision-making process in three major areas – Customer Focused Services, Communication with the Public and our Partners, and Internal Operations, Communication and Organizational Development;
- Addressing the financial needs of the next 10 year Capital Improvements Plan.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING THE CANDIDATE ELECTED TO THIS POSITION?
Simple answer? Being fiscally prudent, yet savvy, while still fulfilling current and future infrastructure needs and maintaining affordable rate levels for customers.
The cost of maintaining a rapidly growing water infrastructure system puts stress on every part of the operation. As the population growth continues at its current pace so too will the cost of maintaining the system. Rising utility costs, aging infrastructure, increased rates, and keeping a highly skilled highly motivated workforce are all challenges that must be met.
HOW WILL YOU ADDRESS IT?
My fellow Commissioners and I have collaborated with PUD management and employees to develop a 5-year strategic plan for our PUD. The 2018-2022 Five Year Strategic Plan is meant to establish PUD objectives in three main areas of Customer Focused Services, Communication with the Public and Partners, and Internal Operations, Communication and Organizational Development. This strategic plan is not a top down approach, but rather it encompasses input, interaction and agreement by employees of each department, including management and Commissioners to properly determine what the priority issues for the PUD are. It was identified and corroborated by staff, operators, management and the Commission that the top three items identified are:
- Maintaining pace with continuing population growth and development.
- Water sustainability
- Asset management
Each of these items were discussed at length so that it was clear to all that everyone at the PUD was on the “same page” with what these items meant to the PUD.
Skagit County faces many growth challenges, and this means that the PUD will experience those challenges as well. To meet those challenges, it is critical that the organization have a clear vision of where it is going and a commitment on how we intend to get there.
I will also begin the preliminary budgetary preparations for the next phase of the PUD’s Capital Improvement Projects. Securing low interests rates for project financing is crucial for the protection of ratepayers from unnecessary rate increases. When I helped the PUD secure a $10 million Capital Projects loan at a local community bank, that banking decision saved the PUD over $1.1 million in unnecessary bond council fees and other extraneous charges, at an interest rate 1.75% lower than the bond market. Through my leadership – diverse banking and finance expertise – and ability to look towards the future with a keen eye for project management and fiscal responsibility, I am proud to report that today the Skagit PUD is a $200 million gross asset Utility with a net asset position of about $160 million. When I was first elected in 2000, the Skagit PUD had a gross asset position of about $96 million.
It is critically important that as one of three Commissioners with a fiduciary obligation to serve in the best interest of the PUD, I consider what is best for the PUD presently, while also giving equal consideration to the projections and growth forecasts provided by our local county commissioners.
WHY SHOULD VOTERS CHOOSE ME?
As a three term Commissioner, the citizens of Skagit County have reaffirmed their trust in my work and leadership as their PUD Commissioner by continuing to endorse me with their vote. I am seeking reelection because the demand for knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of water and utility management comes at a time when that expertise is critical for the protection of our natural resources from major growth, encroachment by developers, state agencies, and state and federal mandates.
Now is not the time to have inexperienced hands at the helm of your PUD. Experience, proven success, extensive knowledge in water system policy, and an open and honest recognition of all the intricate and complex issues confronting the future of utility services in Skagit County, is needed now more than ever before to ensure the quality of Skagit PUD systems are maintained for years to come.
My record of accomplishments over these last 17.5 years speaks to my qualifications as candidate for Skagit PUD Commissioner District 2: transparent protection of the Utility’s assets, unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship, and prioritizing the long-term sustainability of Skagit PUD and the needs of our Skagit County residents.
WHAT SETS ME APART FROM MY OPPONENTS?
I first became involved with Skagit PUD back in 1984 as a volunteer on the Skagit PUD Citizens Advisory Committee, where I served as Chairman of the System Development Fund Review Committee. My career has always been in the banking and finance industry, but water and water management are my passions. When I turned my passion in to the opportunity to serve the people of Skagit County I arrived with only one agenda item: to make the Skagit PUD the best utility in the state.
I am the only candidate that has demonstrated the understanding, leadership, vision, and unwavering commitment to the success and sustainability of the Skagit PUD that is required of a PUD Commissioner. I am currently an active member on several statewide utility committees, Chairman of the Water Committee for Washington Public Utility Districts Association (WPUDA) collectively serving over 2.2 million citizens of Washington, and member of the Washington State Department of Health – Water Advisory Group.
Since being elected to serve as Commissioner for District 2, the Skagit PUD has been recognized as the “Gold Standard of Water Utilities” across the state. Our reputation as a recognized model of efficient and forward-thinking utility management is a direct result of the cohesive and supportive environment that is inherent in the way our PUD handles business. As Commissioner, it is my responsibility – a personal priority – to protect the integrity of our employees, and the Utility. I am proud to represent a Utility operated by men and women equally as passionate about the work they do and purpose they serve every day.
At the end of the day, what sets me apart from the other candidates is experience. Who do you want preserving, protecting, and fighting for your water? Someone who has gone to bat with the bases loaded and knocked it out of the park, or someone still practicing their batting stance.