Customers of the Intermountain Rural Electric Association will elect four board members, and they’ve got a pool of eight candidates to choose from.
The Sedalia-based IREA serves 11 counties …
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The Sedalia-based IREA serves 11 counties in or near the metro area — including a large portion of Douglas County and chunks of Arapahoe, Jefferson and Elbert counties. The service area covers 5,000 square miles and includes more than 150,000 members, according to its website. The nonprofit cooperative serves customers not provided energy through municipal or investor-owned utilities.
A seven-member board of directors makes policy decisions for the district that are implemented by IREA administration. Directors serve four-year terms and are not term limited.
Four districts are up for election this year. Seats in districts 1, 2, 4 and 6 will be decided in an election held during the district’s annual meeting on April 13. All ballots were mailed out by March 14. Mail-in ballots must be returned no later than April 12. Members can also vote in-person at the annual meeting, held at 5496 N. U.S. Highway 85 in Sedalia.
Directors Michael Kempe in District 1, James “Duke” Dozier in District 2, Timothy White in District 4 and Robert Graf in District 6 are all seeking re-election. Kempe is unopposed, and members will not receive a ballot for that seat. Dozier faces two challengers while White and Graf each face one.
Vying for Dozier’s District 2 seat, which comprises portions of southern Castle Rock, Sedalia, Conifer and Bailey, is Peter Smith of Castle Rock. Smith worked in the cable television industry for 35 years and now is a business owner. He supports increasing the IREA’s use of solar power and exploring new revenue streams.
The remaining three challengers are running with Change IREA, also called Energy Freedom Colorado, a group of IREA members or volunteers who want the district to transition to clean energy.
Among them is Steve Roescher, of Castle Rock, who also has his sights sets on District 2. Roescher is a certified project professional and finance executive for Siemens Mobility. He aims to leverage that experience to help the district address debt incurred from running its coal plant.
Running in District 4 is Michael Hays, an IT professional from Castle Rock. His plans if elected include advising the board on policies to purchase renewable energy. District 4 includes portions of Castle Rock, Franktown and The Pinery.
In District 6 is candidate Jason Altshuler, of Centennial, who hopes to represent portions of Aurora, Bennett, Strasburg, Byers and Deer Trail. He works in the financial industry, currently for Westerra Credit Union. He also plans to address coal plant debt using his financial background.
Incumbents say they’ve focused on transitioning the IREA to use more sustainable sources and on helping the company manage shifts in the industry.
In addition to serving on the IREA board, White is a former mayor of Castle Rock who’s held numerous board positions. He is founder and chairman at White Construction of Castle Rock. He’s focused on introducing more energy sources and technology to the IREA while keeping costs low, he said.
Dozier is an 18-year IREA board member who’s also served on the Deer Creek Metro District board. His historical knowledge with the IREA makes him an asset to the company, particularly as it carries out long-term plans, he said. He supports the IREA in acquiring more clean power.
Graf, of Centennial, was first elected to the board in 2011 and is a 35-year member of the IREA. Graf says his background in commercial banking and work as a certified public accountant sets him apart as a director and is crucial to the company. He’s used his finance and accounting background to help IREA restructure outstanding debt and lower interest rates, he said.
The IREA owns 25 percent of the Comanche Unit 3 coal plant, located in Pueblo and operated by Xcel. Change IREA candidates argue the plant is less economical that clean energy sources and hope to bring down company debt incurred from the plant.
IREA Corporate Affairs Manager Josh Liss confirmed that as of the end of February, IREA’s total debt from the Comanche Unit 3 was nearly $317.4 million. White has pushed back on claims the coal plant is too expensive to operate, writing on is website the plan has saved members money.
“It is true that the energy produced by renewable projects built today is inexpensive,” he wrote, “but Unit 3 provides more than energy; (sic) provides capacity and reduces the demand charges we would pay otherwise.”
Dozier said he’s open to selling some of IREA’s Comanche power entitlement, “if appropriate or necessary.”
Liss said a purchase agreement with the plant ends in 2025 but IREA owns a 25 percent interest in Unit 3 for the duration of its “useful life,” which extends beyond 2025.
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