By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
He calls himself a “turnaround specialist” and David Chan wants your vote for the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) Board of Commissioners.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Chan moved to the United States in 1972.
He has been a Fire Commissioner for the past 12 years and now he has set his sights on the Snohomish PUD.
“People encouraged me to run, and do for the PUD what I did for Fire District 1,” said Chan. On his campaign website, Chan said he slashed 40 percent of Fire District 1’s administrative expenses without reducing any public services.
“As Fire Commissioner, I helped turn Fire District 1 around and into a financially strong Regional Fire Authority.”
He said the Snohomish PUD has increased rates 3.5 percent every year in recent years.
“It’s time for an outsider to have a fresh pair of eyes with new ideas to exercise more cost control and keep PUD rates low.”
Chan is competing with four other candidates for District 2 which encompasses southwest Snohomish County, including Lynnwood and Edmonds. Incumbent Kathleen Vaughn is running for a fifth term.
Chan holds an MBA in business finance, and is a practicing certified public accountant (CPA). As a business consultant, he said he helps organizations improve efficiency and achieve greater profit margins.
“What the PUD needs is a long-term financial plan. How do we secure energy? Our energy is not a luxury. It’s a basic need for every single household and the rate increases are hard on senior citizens.”
Though Chan said he is all for renewable energy, he said the Sunset Falls hydroelectric project — which the PUD had to abandon in April — wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer money.
“It’s not cost effective to generate that kind of energy, and that project lacked milestones which any private sector project would have had.” Chan also said the PUD did not budget well enough to secure money to finish the project. He thinks a better option would have been for the PUD to go in on a joint effort with other PUDs across the nation.
“Renewable energy at an affordable price” is what Chan’s campaign website states.
Ignacio Castro Jr., a retired employee of Snohomish County PUD, wrote in a letter to the editor at The Herald, “David is committed to thought-out plans for customer needs, employee wellbeing, and needed electrical system resources, while protecting the environment. The purchase of electrical power will include a sensible combination of hydro, solar, and wind. Equal sensitivity will be given to PUD water services. This will lead to a good plan and should generate stable rates and better cost controls.”
One of Chan’s ideas to promote conservation and reduce Snohomish County’s carbon footprint, while increasing the PUD’s revenue, is by encouraging the use of more electric vehicles.
“Anything that uses electricity that will generate more income for PUD.”
He also plans to stop no-bid contracts and increase transparency by holding meetings in various locations to hear unique hyperlocal concerns.
“Concerns in South Everett are different from what Arlington wants,” said Chan.
If elected, Chan promises to clean house.
“The PUD is a business in need of better oversight.” He also wants to create a better workplace where employees feel safe and valued, and he wants more inclusion and innovation. Chan said he will also push to obtain federal and state grants to expand discounted rates for low-income customers and senior citizens.
In March 2017, Chan and another Snohomish County fire commissioner were reprimanded for making insensitive remarks about hiring Mexicans as cheap labor. Their microphones, rolling during a break in a public meeting, broadcast those comments online.
“I have apologized and addressed [this incident] on several occasions, and I take complete responsibility.” Chan added that that experience helped him to grow.
Chan started his career as a CPA with international accounting firms. He graduated from the University of Oregon and has an MBA from California State University at Hayward. He is married with two children.
He points out that he is one of only a handful of Asian elected officials in Snohomish County.
“Asians need to participate in this (election) process,” said Chan. “We have the population, yet many are not registered voters or voting at all.”
Chan promised, “I will take the politics out of the PUD and focus on practical solutions.”
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.