Dunbar aims for more effective utility

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 4/10/18

Although Larry Dunbar does not officially start his job as general manager of the Jefferson County Public Utility District until April 23, he was on hand alongside PUD commissioners and staff to …

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Dunbar aims for more effective utility

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Although Larry Dunbar does not officially start his job as general manager of the Jefferson County Public Utility District until April 23, he was on hand alongside PUD commissioners and staff to greet the public at a cookout April 6.

The cookout took place at the PUD’s operations center at 310 Four Corners Road, celebrating the utility’s five years in operation.

Dunbar has never lived in Jefferson County, although he resided in Sequim for 12 years and has friends in Port Townsend and Quilcene. He can still recall his daughter taking piano lessons in Irondale, as well as his own excursions to Fort Worden and Brinnon as a Boy Scout.

“My family is originally from the Puget Sound area, so I won’t have to go over a mountain pass to see them,” Dunbar said with a laugh. “I lived in eastern Washington for 23 years, and while I enjoyed the summers, the winters were less desirable.”

Dunbar has been a single parent of three children for the past seven years, but with his son’s graduation from college this June, he is going to have an empty nest for the first time in 29 years. He is looking forward to putting that newfound time to good use for the PUD.

PRIORITIZING PROGRAMS

Dunbar comes to Jefferson County from the City of Ellensburg, for which he served as energy services director since 2012. Prior to his position at Ellensburg, he was deputy director of power resources in Port Angeles for 12 years.

“I always enjoy tackling challenges and taking on a variety of roles,” Dunbar said. “Working at a smaller utility, like this one, promises to offer plenty of intellectual stimulation. I was able to do a lot of positive things with the city staff in Ellensburg, but it was time to move on, because there were no new challenges ahead there for me.”

Dunbar is eager to work with PUD staff to make the utility’s policies and processes as efficient and effective as possible.

“We’re a public utility, so the core of our business is providing electricity, water, sewer and broadband,” Dunbar said. “We’re also a bureaucracy, which means we perform a lot of the same functions over and over and over. We need everyone to understand the things we do, so we can carry them out successfully.”

Dunbar has discussed specific programs with the PUD commissioners. From the proposed “smart” meters and community solar power to the consolidation of the PUD’s facilities into its operations center at 310 Four Corners Road, he knows these programs need to be addressed, but he also pointed out the necessity of prioritizing the programs.

“We have to figure out the order in which we’re going to consider them, because we can’t afford to do them all at once,” Dunbar said. “I expect we’ll spend the next year weighing which issues should take precedence. As such, I don’t think we’ll be pursuing the smart meter program anytime within the next 12 months, but if and when we do, I hope to engage the community in more of a planning way, rather than just in a reactive role.”

Dunbar intends to utilize the PUD’s Citizen Advisory Board more heavily and before such issues move to the utility’s board of commissioners for consideration.

“I want to engage with those in the community who want to serve it,” Dunbar said. “By having the CAB and staff talk about those issues, they can get fleshed out a bit more, before they come before the commissioners. We need to increase our communication with the community. As a public utility, we should be a transparent organization.”

During the PUD commissioners’ March 20 regular meeting, Jeff Randall, District 1 commissioner and president of the board of commissioners, noted Dunbar was the only general manager candidate from Washington state, and the only one who had lived on the Olympic Peninsula.

“He knows the area, and culturally, he’ll be a good fit,” Randall said.

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