Sunday, September 26, 2021
Sept. 26, 2021

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In Our View: Choices Good for Utility

Incumbent Malinowski, challengers Chipman, Erickson all worthy of support

The Columbian

It is a cliché often found in elections, but in this case it rings true. Voters in the race for Clark Public Utilities commissioner from District 1 cannot go wrong.

Jim Malinowski, Judy Chipman and Sherry Erickson all bring impressive qualifications to the contest, demonstrating detailed knowledge of the issues and personalities that suggest they would be effective commissioners. Because of that, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for any of the three candidates in the Aug. 7 primary.

As always, this is merely a recommendation, even if it is an unusual one. That is what happens when The Columbian’s Editorial Board members are so impressed with the field of candidates that their votes are likely to be split come election time. It is a good problem to have, but voters will have to do plenty of homework to distinguish between the candidates before choosing just one name to mark on the ballot. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 6 general election, and we are thankful for that; it gives us more time to make a decision.

Malinowski is the incumbent in the nonpartisan race, nearing the end of his first six-year term. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M, an MBA from Stanford University, worked as an electrical engineer for 31 years with Pacific Gas & Electric, and has taught Power Utilities Technology at Clark College. His r?sum? for the job is about as impressive as one could hope and probably is matched only by his two challengers.

As part of the three-member board, Malinowski has helped oversee a utility that is extremely well run. J.D. Power has honored Clark Public Utilities with its highest rating for customer satisfaction each of the past 11 years, and even Erickson, who is running for Malinowski’s position, says the utility is “currently an efficiently run business with outstanding customer service.”

Erickson also is well-qualified to serve on the board. She has a degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA, and has worked as a project accountant for renowned ZGF Architects. She currently is business manager for her family’s structural consulting firm. She stresses the benefits of a fresh face on the board to lend stability through an “approaching retirement wave.”

Erickson has a strong understanding of Clark Public Utilities’ mission and its financial duties, and she demonstrates knowledge of the changing energy industry. For a political challenger to make a case for why voters should hire them, they must complete their homework; Erickson has done that.

So, too, has Chipman, who retired last year after 16 years with the Bonneville Power Administration and previously worked with aluminum company Vanalco. She also served nine years on the Board of Directors for Columbia Credit Union, including three as chairman, and now is on the supervisory committee.

Chipman also demonstrates a strong understanding of the utility and points to her experience with a growing Columbia Credit Union — including the hiring of a CEO — as proof of her business acumen.

See the problem? All three candidates are qualified, demonstrating the skills that are necessary to keep Clark Public Utilities running smoothly. Only one of them will win election in November, but we encourage the others to seek additional opportunities for public service. For now, however, The Columbian recommends Jim Malinowski, Sherry Erickson and Judy Chipman in the race for Clark Public Utilities Commissioner, wishing that we could vote for all three.