Elections for the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative District 5 Board of Trustees seat will take place on June 24 at Española Valley High School. Incumbent Victor Salazar will face Dixon-resident Stanley Crawford, an author and garlic farmer.
Each candidate is asked the same questions. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Salazar did not respond to multiple phone calls seeking comment for this article. A woman who answered the phone at his residence on Tuesday said he was unavailable because he was out of town.
Donna Montoya-Trujillo recently resigned. The Co-op has had six general managers or interim general managers in the last decade, with the majority of them promoted from within. How would you hire the next general manager?
“I would want to hire somebody with experience in this very complicated business and with a vision for the future. I want to know where we are going to go with this and I don’t have- I have a sense that, that has not been the case in the past.”
Member-owners feel like they do not have a voice at the monthly meetings and that it is difficult to get information from the Board of Trustees and Co-op management. How will you address member-owners’ concerns and improve the relationship between them and the Board?
“I think that the Board does need to hear the members and I’ve actually proposed to my colleagues here that we have one Board meeting, perhaps on a regular basis, in which no business is conducted but we listen to the concerns of the members.”
The Board recently passed a policy requiring member-owners, media, attorneys and other members of the public to send all questions and comments to the general manager and be reviewed by the Board’s Executive Committee before receiving a response. Do you support the Co-op’s communication policy and why?
“Absolutely not. I’m a writer and I believe in talking, writing, whichever way it has to go. I don’t think you can suppress discourse and dialogue in this way. I think dialogue and discourse are extremely important in these times for any and all organizations, and especially this one.”
What is one Co-op Board policy or bylaw that needs to be changed and why?
“There’s several, but I would say to begin with, the most important is probably mail-in voting because, for example where I live in Dixon, people have to drive round trip 60 miles, 50 miles during a workday to vote. And I think the present policy discourages participation and we want to encourage participation.”
Kit Carson Electric Cooperative got out of its contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. because of limits on renewable energy generation. Another co-op, Delta-Montrose Electric Association in Colorado, is in the process. Should the Co-op end its contract with Tri-State and why?
“Ideally I would say yes it should, but Tri-State (Generation and Transmission Association) may well be in evolution, may be evolving and I understand the Guzman deal, or proposal, has fallen through. But, something may re-enter the table, as it were. And I think that there are two ways to go. One, we could either withdraw, which is expensive. Or, we can try to change the culture of Tri-State by working with Delta-Montrose and the other three or four large Colorado co-ops that are trying to change the Tri-State culture. But all that said, even with that change, I would like to see the cap on renewables removed because what I am interested in is seeing locally-generated electricity, which creates local jobs and keeps money in (Rio Arriba County), and also encourages businesses and industry to locate here.”
Last year, the world’s leading climate scientists warned that there is only a dozen years left for global heating to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. What role does the Co-op play in confronting the climate crisis?
“I think it plays a huge role and even though this is a local election involving relatively few people, the implications are indeed planetary. If we can move fast enough into renewables, we are doing our part. If we fail to do so, we are contributing majorly to the global warming problem, which will make our lives very miserable, if not impossible.”
Do you support the Co-op’s current efforts to build a 2.5 megawatt solar array and why?
“I certainly support the idea of a solar array, but I understand the contract calls for a very high rate per kilowatt hour and there’s no reason for that. So, I don’t like the contract. I think it should be renegotiated or canceled. But yes, of course we should have solar arrays wherever we can put them.”