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April 11, 2021

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Clark Public Utilities’ finance chief retires after 34 years

Dyer helped guide agency through WPPSS era

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

After 34 years as Clark Public Utilities’ director of finance, Rick Dyer has retired.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve this utility, and this community, for so many years,” Dyer said in a statement to The Columbian. “We worked every day to do good, and the result was a utility run by a folks who genuinely cared about customers and valued both quality and consistency. Values that are held just as strongly by the next generation of utility leadership.”

When Dyer began working at the utility, it served about 86,000 customers with an operating budget of around $81 million. Today, the utility serves about 195,000 water and electricity customers with an operating budget of around $385 million this year.

“Rick has provided steady financial leadership of this utility for the entirety of my own career at Clark Public Utilities,” Clark CEO and General Manager Wayne Nelson said in a statement. “He led this utility through many milestones and set high expectations for excellence and accountability. Rick will be missed, and we wish him all the very best in his much-deserved retirement.”

Dyer began overseeing the utility’s budgeting and accounts just after the infamous Washington Public Power Supply System collapse that ensnared more than 88 participating public utilities. WPPSS told its creditors it couldn’t pay on a $2.25 billion debt it amassed while building two nuclear power plants.

The projects were terminated and bondholders, including Clark Public Utilities, sued the supply system. Dyer was part of the leadership team that navigated the utility through the episode which included years of litigation and financial fallout during what was then the nation’s largest municipal bond default.

He also oversaw the utility’s finances when it built the River Road Generating Plant in the mid-1990s and the Western U.S. Energy Crisis of 2000 and 2001, which was marked by rolling brownouts, decreased supplies and skyrocketing rates across the country.

It’s not unusual for the utility’s employees to serve long tenures, according to its spokeswoman, Erica Erland. Currently the organization has eight employees who have worked with the utility longer than Dyer.

With Dyer’s retirement, Melissa Ankeny was named interim director of finance.

Clark Public Utilities’ last rate increase was in 2011. It has maintained a clean audit history and strong credit rating. Additionally, the utility has been ranked highest in its class for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power for 10 years in a row.

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