The public power initiative already has made the November ballot after a grass-roots organization called the Thurston Public Power Initiative collected enough valid signatures to put it there.
If approved by voters, the initiative would give the PUD commission authority to pursue public power. The Thurston PUD currently is solely a water utility that owns or manages water systems for about 3,200 customers.
Steve Fossum, Linda Oosterman and Justin Kover are looking to replace former commissioner Paul Pickett, who retired this year.
Fossum, 48, has worked for the division of child support in the state Department of Social and Health Services for 20 years. He said he decided to run because he has been interested in public utilities for some time. He also comes from a family of electricians, including his grandfather, who moved from North Dakota to Portland during World War II to work in the citys shipyards. Those shipyards relied on public power provided by the federal government, Fossum said.
Fossum supports public power for Thurston County, saying the initiative, if approved, would give commissioners up to 10 years to study and implement what they determine is feasible.
Its a long process, and it should be studied adequately, he said.
He added that power has to be offered in a costeffective manner that does not encumber the PUD with too much debt. Fossum and Kover both have raised less than $5,000, which means their campaign amounts dont have to be disclosed to the state Public Disclosure Commission, spokeswoman Lori Anderson said.
Fossum said he has raised about $3,500, including contributions from the Washington Federation of State Employees, Local 443 and the Thurston, Mason, Lewis Central Labor Council.
Retiree Oosterman, 68, is involved in several local boards, including the Thurston County Drug Court Foundation advisory board.
She spent 20 years in management, including working for a mental health crisis program in Grays Harbor County, and was co-director of the human-service program and taught at Grays Harbor College.
Oosterman said shes fond of public power.
She formerly lived in the Eastern Washington town of Republic, where she was exposed to Ferry County PUD. She also has visited her son in Germany and came away impressed with a country where solar and wind power is widely used.
However, shes not ready to make a decision about public power for Thurston County.
I stand waiting for the facts, she said, adding that she wants to know more about costs.
I cannot make an informed decision at this point, she said.
A preliminary feasibility study about public power has been released by a consultant hired by the PUD, although it did not identify any costs.
Oosterman has raised about $5,100, including contributions from state lawmakers Chris Reykdal and Sam Hunt, as well as from Thurston County officials Sandra Romero, Shawn Myers and Steven Drew, PDC records show.
Kover, 37, said he, too, needs more information about the public-power process. He said hes skeptical because he thinks rates likely would rise. I think this is way more expensive than anybody thinks, he said.
Kover, a Realtor for Olympic View Group, has run for office before, including in 2010 for the 22nd Legislative District against Hunt.
Hes running for the PUD seat because he believes in open government, better rates and clean water, he said.
One of his ideas for the PUD is to set up streaming video for commission meetings so ratepayers would know when decisions are made to raise rates, for example.
Kover has had some runins with law enforcement. Most of them are driving-related offenses, although he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in 1999, public records show. Kover acknowledges he made a mistake and said hes prepared to answer questions about his background.
I have to be ready for scrutiny, he said.
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