Diverse candidates vie for PUD spot

Staff writer Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com theolympian.com/bizblogJanuary 25, 2013 

Two private sector workers, two state workers and a 20-year veteran of the Army have applied to fill the Thurston Public Utility District 2 commissioner position left vacant by former commissioner Alan Corwin. Corwin resigned before the end of 2012.

Voters defeated a proposition in November that would have given the PUD the authority to pursue public electrical power.

Thurston PUD commissioners serve six-year terms. The existing commissioners for the water utility are Chris Stearns and newly elected commissioner Linda Oosterman.

Here are the five applicants:

 • Vasiliy Stupin III, 34, chief executive of VIS Group Inc., a real estate management company based in Lacey. Stupin also serves on the City of Lacey planning commission.

 • Daniel Cathers, 47, an information technology specialist with the state Department of Social and Health Services. He also serves on the board of supervisors for the Thurston Conservation District.

 • Gary Villanueva, 53, spent 20 years in the Army. He most recently interned with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is set to graduate in May with a master’s degree in engineering management from Saint Martin’s University.

 • Greg Tolbert, 49, chief solutions officer for Sirius Business LLC, a venture capital firm. Before that, he was senior legal counsel for Weyerhaeuser.

 • Russ Olsen, 38, voluntary cleanup program unit supervisor for the state Department of Ecology. Olsen also is a former Saint Martin’s Alumni board member.

Stupin and Cathers also served in the Army.

All are Lacey residents, except for Cathers and Tolbert. Cathers lives on Laredo Drive Southeast in Olympia, which is near Lacey, while Tolbert lives on 39th Loop Northeast in Olympia, which is near Hawks Prairie. District 2 covers the eastern portion of the county, including Lacey, Rainier and Yelm.

Villanueva could not be reached Thursday, but the remaining four were asked about their positions on public power and the PUD.

Stupin said he would need more research and evaluation on the subject before he could support public power. Cathers felt the same, saying there wasn’t enough information.

“My initial impression is that it was not a good idea,” he said.

Tolbert didn’t offer an opinion, saying he wasn’t privy to information that the commissioners had. Still, he worked with the Bonneville Power Administration to purchase public power during his days with Weyerhaeuser, a process he called “tremendously complicated.”

Olsen said the PUD should focus on what it is legally authorized to do, which is manage its water systems.

Up next, finalists will be selected at a public meeting Jan. 29. Interviews will be scheduled by Feb. 4, followed by the announcement of the new commissioner Feb. 12 and the swearing-in ceremony Feb. 26.

Commissioners receive $1,300 a month, plus per diem and reasonable expenses, according to the PUD. The new commissioner will have the seat until 2014, when he will have the option of running for election. Corwin had four years left on his term.

Corwin’s last day was New Year’s Eve. He gave no reason for his resignation, although PUD Chief Financial Officer Julie Parker said Thursday that Corwin was “out of town extensively for personal reasons.”

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