(Deer Island, OR - April 19, 2017) At their April 18, 2017, meeting, the Columbia River People's Utility District Board of Directors appointed John Nguyen as General Manager. Nguyen has served as Interim General Manager since August 2015. He now becomes the third General Manager in the PUD's 33-year history.
The action item before the Board laid out several options including extending Nguyen's Interim General Manager contract, hiring an outside firm for a competitive recruitment, asking PUD staff to conduct a competitive recruitment, or appointing Nguyen. During their discussion, the Board members voiced unanimous support for the PUD's performance under Nguyen's leadership, and discussed the costs and challenges of the other recruitment options.
"If there was a test, he passed," said Board Treasurer Craig Melton of Nguyen. "Everything from operations to financials is going well, and I would like to keep him aboard."
"It's all about appointing an experienced and qualified professional manager for the PUD on behalf of all the customers," Board Member Rob Mathers said. "John has great perseverance and great fortitude, and is wholly competent for the job."
"I have observed John over the past couple of years and the direction he has steered the PUD is the direction I look forward to setting on the board," Board Member Debbie Reed said.
Board President Jake Carter noted that he had spoken with other utilities who reported that their general manager recruitments using a headhunter cost in the $70,000 range, with new managers coming from neighboring utilities or from within. He noted that conducting an in-house recruitment would take staff away from other responsibilities. Additionally, Carter said that due to the high number of baby boomer general managers retiring out of the industry today, there are not many qualified candidates available to recruit.
"John and his leadership team have been able to handle every critical task that was thrown at them, hands down," Carter said. "Our employees are happy, we have cash in the bank, and we are going in a positive direction. I have a hard time finding any negative in our current leader."
Following the discussion, Reed made a motion to appoint Nguyen, which was seconded by Melton. The motion passed unanimously and was met by a round of applause from the audience.
Nguyen thanked the Board for the appointment and credited the leadership team for the success of the PUD. "I have a great staff that I work with and everything that we have done together is because of their dedication and talent. I appreciate them," he said.
PUD Human Resources Generalist Sonia Wendelschafer presented the Board with a survey of salaries from other PUDs in Oregon and Washington. Following deliberation, the Board set Nguyen's salary at $207,000, which matches the average of other Oregon PUDs.
About Columbia River PUD
Columbia River PUD provides electric service to 19,000 customers in Columbia and Multnomah Counties. The PUD currently employs 48 people and had a total operating and non-operating income of $31.4 million in 2016.
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