Lobdell, Thomas compete for open District 1 HEA seat

Editor's note: Today's HEA board election coverage focuses on District 1 candidates. Friday's paper will include District 2 candidates, and Sunday's paper will include District 3 candidates.


One candidate with prior board experience and a first-time candidate will compete for a seat on Homer Electric Association's Board of Directors in District 1 as ballots are set to be mailed to the cooperative's members this spring.

Former board member and Kenai resident David Thomas will face longtime Nikiski resident Jesse Lobdell in the district that covers Kenai, Nikiski and portions of Soldotna.

Thomas is a 50-year-old civil engineer who served on the board from 2008 to 2011. He said he enjoyed contributing to the board during those three years.

"I don't think everyone on the board needs to have a financial background or an engineering background or to know about permitting or energy policy," he said. "But I think ... that having some of that expertise on the board is helpful and I feel that I add that expertise to the board."

Thomas said he has several goals if re-elected, including more cogeneration from medium-sized users that would generate electricity through waste heat.

He said he would like HEA to be as progressive and clever as other utilities and will advocate for the adoption of other associations' best practices.

"I think as a member-owned and more locally-focused utility, we can have approaches and philosophies that are outside of the box of for-profit utilities," he said. "Anything that helps the Kenai Peninsula -- be it local jobs, greater energy efficiency, be it cutting the power bill to the borough or the district -- it seems to me a win-win."

He said he is happy with the past decisions he made on the board. He'd also like to see more diversity on the board and maintain open governance and accountability.

"I've seen progress in that direction and I'd continue to push for more," he said.

Said Thomas: "Where the rest of the world is now we will probably be in five, 10 or 15 years. So let's prepare for that and let's anticipate those efficiencies in our planning so that this is a more affordable place to live and a more competitive place to have a business. We don't have to lag the rest of the world in our technologies or our policies."

Lobdell is a 74-year-old semi-retired land surveyor from Nikiski. This is the first time he has sought an elected position, he said.

Lobdell said he spoke with outgoing board member Alan Bute who encouraged him to seek the position.

"I can't think of any changes that I would make, however, I'm always interested in change," he said. "So if something came up, you bet I would work hard to help resolve it and stay at the table."

Lobdell said he is impressed he hasn't heard of any disagreements between HEA management and labor and likes HEA's goal of working toward generating its own electricity. He said he has "a whole mish-mash" of ideas HEA could seek to work on in that regard.

"Mainly I would just like to be in on the planning of those things," he said. "It has just been an interest of mine for some time."

He said his experience and tenure as an HEA member were reasons he would be the best candidate.

"I think the fact that I have been here for 40-some years and am quite familiar with HEA and a number of the people who have been on the board in the past," he said.

Said Lobdell: "I would like to see HEA continue in the way that it is operating now. I think it is a good corporation and is doing well and would like to see that continue."

HEA board members are elected only by the members in their districts. The board consists of nine members who serve three-year terms.

Ballots will be mailed to HEA members Friday. Members will also vote on a proposition to amend the cooperative's by-laws to allow for electronic voting during elections. Currently, members can vote by mail ballot or in person at the annual meeting on May 3 at Homer High School.

Completed mail-in ballots must be received by May 2 in order to be valid.

Last year, Kelley Bookey was elected to a seat in District 1 over Thomas, Dick Waisanen ran unopposed an won the open District 2 seat, and incumbent Mike Wiley trumped Malcolm Gaylord to keep his District 3 seat.

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.