Chelan General Manager Steve Wright and Kitsap County PUD General Manager Bob Hunter receive Lifetime Achievement awards; Good Samaritan awards go to Clark County Public Utilities’ Tommy Jensen and the Grant County PUD Emergency Response Team and scholarships awarded to students from Clallam and Mason counties

The Washington Public Utility Districts Association presented its annual awards recognizing the achievements demonstrated by individuals serving public utility districts. The Washington PUD Association presents awards annually for lifetime achievement and meritorious action in a life-threatening situation (Good Samaritan Award). In addition, the Association presents a $1,000 educational scholarship to a graduating senior of a PUD employee.

Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Chelan County PUD and Kitsap County PUD General Managers.

 The Washington PUD Association awarded two Lifetime Achievement Awards this year, recognizing Chelan County PUD General Manager Steve Wright and Kitsap County PUD General Manager Bob Hunter. The award is the highest honor of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association. The award recognizes the commitment of an outstanding individual(s) to the philosophy and purpose of public power and to the Washington PUD Association.

Steve Wright joined Chelan PUD as General Manager after working for the Bonneville Power Administration for 32 years, including 12 years as Administrator/CEO. Wright was known for always engaging customers, policymakers, and stakeholders to solve problems and reach creative solutions. 

“Steve had a long and distinguished career at Bonneville Power Administration ending up his 12 years as their Administrator, so we knew as a Commission, when we hired Steve that he had a track record of quality administration and leadership at Bonneville Power” said Randy Smith, Chelan County PUD Board of Commissioners President. Smith added, “What we didn’t know, is how that would translate to being an effective General Manager at a much smaller place, Chelan County. We were pleasantly surprised.”  Smith said Wright is a humble individual who is tenacious and a “great great listener.”  Smith said it is an honor and privilege to have Steve as General Manager of Chelan County PUD adding that his work not only benefited Chelan County PUD, but all of public power.  

As General Manager of Chelan PUD, Steve Wright led the development of two community-based strategic plans. In 2020, with Wright at the helm of the PUD, a survey found that 86% of customers indicated they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with Chelan PUD service. 

Mr. Wright oversaw rehabilitation and major investment in the Rocky Reach and Rock Island Dams and supported the ongoing, successful implementation of Chelan PUD's hydropower habitat conservation plans.

In addition to his work at Chelan PUD, Steve Wright is a regional voice for public power, working with other utility managers, regional and national trade associations, policymakers, and stakeholders to guide industry involvement on issues including western market development, resource adequacy and reliability, energy efficiency and climate policy. 

Bob Hunter joined Kitsap PUD in 1986 as a water system operator. He held several positions at the PUD before being named General Manager in 2014. 

Under Hunter’s leadership, Kitsap PUD was presented with a Commitment to Excellence Award by the Washington Department of Health and in 2020, the Department of Health awarded Hunter a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to providing, reliable, sustainable drinking water service to Kitsap communities. 

Bob's accomplishments during his career at Kitsap PUD include the creation of Kitsap PUD's Water Resource Monitoring Network which provides insight into Kitsap's hydrology and has provided data and support to many studies; construction of regional drinking water infrastructure that provides reliable, sustainable utility service to Kitsap; and groundbreaking work to extend broadband infrastructure to underserved communities in Kitsap County.

In addition, Bob Hunter has been an influential voice in the industry and at WPUDA. Bob served as the WPUDA Water Committee Chair, served on the Washington Utilities Coordinating Council, he was appointed to the Legislature's Foster Task Force on water rights mitigation, and he has advocated for PUDs on numerous bills in the legislature.

“Bob is a visionary, a leader and someone I am proud to call a friend,” said Kitsap County PUD Board of Commissioners President, Heather Pauley. “His biggest accomplishment is creating our culture of ‘yes’ at Kitsap PUD. Yes, we educate and empower employees; yes, we answer calls to assist from our community. Not only is he an asset to Kitsap PUD, but he is also an asset to other PUDs as well.”

Washington PUD Association presents two Good Samaritan Awards to employees of Clark Public Utilities and Grant County PUD.

The Washington PUD Association presented two Good Samaritan Awards to PUD employees who, in the past year, demonstrated meritorious action in a life-threatening situation.

The Grant County PUD Emergency Response Team was recognized for their quick response when a boat that two PUD contractors were working in near the Wanapum Dam spillway experienced engine trouble and was pulled into the back current. The vessel became swamped and overturned, throwing the workers into the frigid water. The team used their extensive training to rescue the workers and get them to warm vehicles while they waited for an ambulance to arrive. 

“The extensive training and efforts that these members perform day in and day out along with their normal core duties really highlights the core values of the PUD to include teamwork, collaboration, and respect,” said Rich Wallen, Grant PUD Chief Operator Officer. “The discipline that they show and the hours of training that they put in were all called into action on that day and highlights the best of what the district is all about.”

Team members honored include Roy Bensch, Jeremy Coleman, Stephen Gilliland, Travis Havens, Tyrone Mertes, Brian Saunders, Mike Allen, Willie Stone

Clark Public Utilities Lineman Tommy Jensen was recognized for his response to a motorcycle accident on Highway 84 during Labor Day weekend. Jensen witnessed a motorcycle crash and seeing dust, skid marks and an injured person in the roadway, Jensen pulled off the highway to help. The situation quickly worsened when blinding glare from the sun limited visibility for approaching motorists. While the first few cars were able to swerve, one wasn’t and struck the downed rider. Jensen administered first aid to the motorcyclist, but unfortunately, it was too late. Meanwhile, the scene became chaotic, with people moving dangerously in and out of the roadway and others pulling off the road and putting themselves and others at risk.

Jensen’s training allowed him to focus, controlling the scene by putting up flares to divert traffic and comforting those involved in the crash. His quick actions prevented an emergency from becoming much worse. 

“We are extremely fortunate to have a leader like Tommy Jensen working at Clark Public Utilities,” said Gene Morris, Clark Public Utilities Operations Manager. “He’s also a leader in our community and on this day when he witnessed the accident out on the freeway, he proved what type of leader he really is.”

“My training and experience were what made me able to focus on what needed to be done and kept me from getting caught up in the intense emotion of the moment,” Jensen said. “I never thought of myself as the type of person who’d take charge over a scene like that, but it was clear that I was the only person who could do it. The people who were stopping clearly wanted to help but had no idea what to do and were putting themselves in danger.”

Scholarships awarded to students from Clallam and Mason counties

WPUDA awarded two $1,000 scholarships to students who are the children of PUD employees. The annual scholarships are awarded based on academic performance, community service and extracurricular activities, and an essay on topics related to PUDs.

This year, the recipients are Katherine Taylor, nominated by Mason PUD No. 3 and Cheyenne Maggard, nominated by Clallam County PUD.

Katherine Taylor is the daughter of Mason PUD No. 3 employee Brian Taylor and Cheyenne Maggard is the daughter of Clallam County PUD employee Brent Maggard. 

The Washington Public Utility Districts Association advocates for 27 not-for-profit, public utility districts across the State of Washington and one joint operating agency, Energy Northwest.