North Tahoe PUD mulling switch to at-large elections | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe PUD mulling switch to at-large elections

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TAHOE VISTA, Calif. — The North Tahoe Public Utility District is seeking input on at-large elections, a change that would be a first in the agency’s 67-year history.

Officials believe that since district formation in 1948, candidates have run for a seat number (1 through 5), typically resulting in a two-person race between challenger and incumbent.

The district’s five seats don’t represent geographical areas. NTPUD is considering switching to voting at large, in which any number of candidates would run for all available seats.

“I think this comes back to a little bit of public outreach in finding out what the public wants,” director Phil Thompson said at the NTPUD board’s Tuesday meeting. “… I don’t think we should be the ones to decide.”

As for how the district will collect input, a strategy needs to be developed, and multiple avenues will be pursued, NTPUD interim general manager/CEO Duane Whitelaw said Wednesday.

Last year, neighboring Tahoe City Public Utility District switched to the at-large method in time for the November 2014 election. It had been the other way for 76 years prior.

At Tuesday’s meeting, two members of the public spoke in favor of the NTPUD switch.

“It’s the most democratic process there is, and you don’t have two people going up against each other; they stay focused on the issues, and it’s a better election,” said Incline resident Alex Mourelatos, whose lodging property in Tahoe Vista is on NTPUD land.

Cons mentioned include competing candidates sitting on the board at the same time.

The district will take the next three to six months to gather input, with a board vote expected within that timeframe, Whitelaw said.

The next election is November 2016, with three NTPUD board seats opening — one held by vice president John Bergmann and the other two by directors Thompson and Tim Ferrell. Each director serves a four-year term.