Clark Public Utilities to consider CEO salary bump

Nelson's performance on agenda Tuesday morning

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Clark Public Utilities commissioners on Tuesday morning are expected to discuss the job performance of the utility's CEO and general manager, Wayne Nelson, and to consider bumping up his pay.

Commissioners Nancy Barnes, Byron Hanke and Jim Malinowski will take up those issues as part of the agenda of their regular public hearing, to be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Vancouver Service Center, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way.

Nelson earns $235,000 per year. He also receives a car allowance of $400 per month. The median base salary for similar positions is $260,000, as determined by Seattle firm Milliman, according to Lena Wittler, a spokeswoman for the utility.

"Wayne has done a good job," Malinowski said. "I've been a critic of the utility on other fronts. I'm not a critic of his management."

To decide the pay, commissioners compare salaries of equivalent positions for similarly-sized utilities, Wittler said. They examine salary surveys, including from the American Public Power Association and the Northwest Utilities Salary, Wage, and Benefits Survey by Milliman.

Commissioners also judge Nelson's performance by how well the utility is serving its customers, Wittler said. Earlier this year, the utility received recognition from J.D. Power — a global market research firm — for the highest customer satisfaction ranking for residential electric service among midsize electricity providers in the western United States.

It was the sixth consecutive year Clark Public Utilities won that recognition.

"Those really speak highly of (Nelson's) performance," Wittler said of the J.D. Power awards.

Nelson last received a salary increase in December 2012, when commissioners raised his pay by $10,000, from $225,000 to $235,000, a 4 percent increase.

Nelson has been CEO and general manager of Clark Public Utilities since January 1999. He joined the utility in 1989 as general counsel. Before joining the utility, he was a partner in the Vancouver law firm of Blair Schaefer Hutchison & Wynne. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Washington and a law degree from Lewis & Clark/Northwestern School of Law in Portland.

The public utility has 358 full-time employees and provides electricity to more than 185,000 residential and business customers in Clark County. It also has 31,340 residential water customers in unincorporated areas.


Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.