OPALCO forum introduces candidates to community

There are two open positions on the Orcas Power and Light Cooperative’s board of directors and two candidates running for them (though not against one another). OPALCO hosted a forum on March 15 at Odd Fellows Hall, allowing the community to meet with the two candidates.

Richard Christmas and Jeffrey Struthers are both hoping to fill the vacant positions on the board to represent District 2: Orcas, Armitage, Big Double, Blakely, Fawn, Little Double and Obstruction islands. Every OPALCO member is being asked to vote in this election, regardless of what island they live on. Voting began March 29.

“The key message that we want to get out is that everyone needs to vote, despite the fact that it’s an uncontested election (two candidates running for two open positions),” Suzanne Olson, OPALCO public relations administrator told the Weekly. “If we don’t get a quorum of the membership to vote, we’d have to run the election all over again – and that would be very costly for members.”

At the forum, both candidates introduced themselves, providing details about their professional history and why they would make a good OPALCO board member, then they answered 11 questions asked by the audience.

Christmas has been a resident of Orcas since 1998 and is an active participant in the Eastsound visioning process. He is the president of Christmas Consulting, a firm that provides support to government and corporate entities, he said.

“[I’m] primarily working on internal and external processes (an Eastsound Planning and Review Committee project that is preparing for the village’s growth). That’s what I know best. … A lot of my background comes from getting the best out of, hopefully, out of organizations,” Christmas said. “I think that’s something you can always use in any organization, and hopefully that’s something I can bring to the organization. It’s great today. I think it can get even better.”

Other community organizations Christmas has served on a governing board for include the Boy Scouts of America and the Washington Shotokan Karate.

Struthers’ professional history includes working as an Air Force engineering officer, earning an MBA, working as a nonpartisan professional for three former presidents and as a renewable energy analyst helping to craft national solar legislation. He commended the cooperative’s ethics.

“It’s not, ‘do it quick and dirty and hope it’ll work,’ and it’s not, ‘do it just when it’s convenient to get it done.’ Rather it’s, ‘make sure you get it done and make it work for the long-haul,’” said Struthers. “Many years ago, I [forwent] my interest in energy, and now I’m back. … Things are changing in the world. … All the while we must remain fiscally sound and ready to deal with the unexpected, so I expect some exciting times ahead.”

Struthers said he understands the principles of small business: focus, persistence, daily practical problem-solving and cash management. He also said he values community, having served six years on the county Parks and Recreation Commission as well as five years as treasurer for the Orcas Animal Protection Society.

The 11 questions varied from the affordability of the public utility provided by OPALCO to the candidates’ opinion on the co-op’s subsidiary Rock Island Communications. Both candidates had a minute to respond to the audience’s questions.

Both men gave closing comments before the forum concluded. Struthers reiterated that he is a small-business-focused person with engineering experience and an MBA.

“I know we have pretty limited upside on revenues going forward and yet we have an important job to do here in the community,” Struthers said. “My intention is to bring my experiences and background to the party and see if we can just make it all play together and get done what we need to get done.”

Christmas said that Struthers is a gift and that it’s always good to have people who really want to contribute. Struthers later said he is going to vote for Christmas as well.

“I’m excited about contributing what I can,” Christmas said. “It’s a very exciting prospect, and quite honestly, on the other side, it’s a very exciting prospect if we don’t make things better.”

Candidate statements are posted on OPALCO’s website now at tinyurl.com/OPALCO2018. To read a more comprehensive detail of the forum, visit www.islandssounder.com.