Five candidates are seeking election to Position 1 on the Skagit Public Utility District Board of Commissioners: Kenneth Goodwin, Wim Houppermans, Andrew Miller, Bryce Nickel and Rick Pitt. The term is for six years.
Al Littlefield, who has served in the District position since 1985, is not seeking re-election.
The Skagit PUD is the water provider for the cities of Burlington, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley and neighboring rural and suburban areas — a total of 26,000 metered connections. The district also operates eight remote water systems, including systems on Fidalgo and Guemes islands.
The Anacortes American asked the candidates to respond to a set of questions.
Name: Andrew Miller
Party Preference: None stated
Residence: Mount Vernon
Occupation: Farmer, CEO
Education: Juris Doctorate, Seattle University School of Law; MBA, Pacific Lutheran University; MA in Organizational Leadership, Gonzaga University; MA in Strategic Studies, Naval Postgraduate School; BS, Excelsior College.
Elected offices held: None
Community involvement: Viva Farms Board vice president; Anacortes Economic Development Committee; Anacortes Marine Trades Committee; Skagit Innovation Partnership Zone Committee Member; former Scoutmaster and Skagit District Training Committee chair, Boy Scouts of America.
Campaign website: millerforskagitpud.com
Why are you running for office? Water is at the heart of what makes the quality of life in Skagit County so remarkable. It drives nearly every aspect of the environmental, ecological, and economic benefits that we enjoy and we need to make sure that we’ve got the absolute best team on the field at the PUD. Our community needs elected officials that are committed to creatively and constructively tackling the challenges facing households and businesses in Skagit County. I have spent my career serving our country and community and solving problems at the highest levels of industry and I look forward to bringing that experience to the PUD.
What are the five biggest issues facing the candidate who is elected to this position? The single biggest issue is the PUD Commission itself, as the PUD will have to grapple with the internal challenges of two brand new members of the commission and the effects of that uncertainty will have on the PUD leadership and staff.
As a military veteran and now entrepreneur and business owner, I have a lifetime of experiences joining and leading teams during times of crisis. Setting clear expectations and ensuring everyone knows what’s going on, what they need to do, and that they have the resources to do it is the paramount task in leading teams during times of uncertainty.
Second, the external challenges of a global pandemic on the economy and the uncertainty of potential disruptions to the existing operational plans need to be shored up to ensure continuity of services is uninterrupted — addressed in the same way as in No. 1, but with a focus on revenue generation and the loss of potential grants or other funding and understanding quickly how that might throw off established plans.
Third, the PUD needs to bring its “A” game to the countywide fiber conversation. It’s one thing to be a partner and it’s another to be driving the changes with the focus, energy, resources and capabilities it’s going to take to get fiber across and throughout Skagit County. I will address this by putting the energy and focus on the relationships and opportunities that can fast-track the changes we need. By identifying existing projects and technologies that could be folded into the current strategy, we could shave years and millions of dollars of time it might take to do this “at the speed of government.”
Fourth, the PUD needs to be an active partner with agriculture and environmental initiatives and prioritize stable and affordable water access during droughts in order to maintain a viable agricultural industry remains in Skagit Valley. Healthy fields drive jobs and food security, as well as soil quality and ultimately water quality that improves the viability of salmon and our ocean environments as well. I will address this by insisting that the PUD be at the table early and often in support of agricultural use and environmental partnerships. Establishing plans and partnerships that get the water where it needs to be when it needs to be there is imperative and I’m a planner with experience working across diverse stakeholder sets.
Fifth, the PUD needs to make sure it has the best talent on the field. Making sure the leadership team and staff at the PUD is organized, trained, equipped and oriented for success is a critical role of the commission. I have extensive experience hiring, maintaining, motivating and evaluating executives, senior staff and outcomes of enterprise-level initiatives.
How will you address them? Answered above.
Why should voters choose you? I am the candidate that can best represent all of Skagit County. I have solved problems and built world-class teams in government and the private sector and I have spent a lifetime developing the leadership skills to make sure the PUD continues to deliver on its mission and is ready for whatever comes next. I understand what makes Skagit County different and how to use those cultural strengths to keep it special.
What sets you apart from your opponents?: As a Skagit County native and current business owner with school-age kids at home, I have a depth and breadth of connection to the entire Skagit County community that my opponents do not. I farm here and have started and run three other businesses in Skagit County, so I’m working with a diversity of neighbors, policymakers, customers, clients, and other stakeholders in and around PUD decisions every day in ways my opponents are not. My experience at the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County (EDASC) gave me a countywide perspective of the policy and practical complexities and opportunities for both environmental conservation and economic development specific to Skagit County.
How are you campaigning and engaging with voters during the pandemic?: I’m relying on social media and email messaging and will be rolling out signage and newspaper messaging throughout the campaign. As a digital native, I find Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as channels that help to efficiently connect and engage with voters. I have also secured the endorsements of key influencers in the community (for instance, I’ve secured the endorsement and/or votes of half of the Anacortes City Council).