Brad Benson – Bio
District 7 Candidate, Incumbent
Nominated by committee
Years in Alaska: 13
Occupation/Employer: Business Owner / Manager
Education: Bachelor of Science in Management from Tarleton State University; FAA Commercial Pilot & Flight Instructor Certifications; Master Firefighter, Fire Investigator, Fire & EMS Instructor; Emergency Medical Technician, Wilderness EMT; Ham Radio Operator
Aviation, business development, investments, mechanics, hunting, fishing, movies, snow skiing, and volunteering within the fire service.
Golden Valley Electric Assn. – District 7 Board Member (2020-2021) & GVEA Member Advisory Committee (2017-2020); Tri Valley Volunteer Fire Dept. (Healy, AK) – Firefighter/EMT (2009-Present); Granbury Fire Dept. (TX) – Lifetime Member (2002-Present)
Special Interests/Community Service:
I joined the fire service shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 out of a desire to serve my community. When I came to Alaska in the summer of 2009, I joined the Tri Valley VFD in Healy, having previously been active with a larger fire department in Texas. I love helping others in need through the use of my knowledge and abilities. I also enjoy promoting aviation through my role as a flight instructor, helping both aspiring and current pilots increase their aeronautical knowledge, safety, and skills.
Meet the Candidate Q&A
Why are you interested in running for a seat on GVEA’s board?
I discovered Alaska after years of building and managing movie theater businesses in Texas with my brother and family. However, my love of aviation brought me north to Denali, where I ended up operating my own small air service. As the tour business grew, we added off-road tours, Jeep rentals, Aurora tours, and more, providing various ways to share the grandeur of Alaska with visitors. In 2017, I joined GVEA’s Member Advisory Committee to represent our community while learning more about power production in Alaska. In 2020, I was selected to fill the District 7 board seat, and looking to the future, I plan to continue pushing for organizational improvements.
What business, technical and governance knowledge, skills and experience will you bring to GVEA’s Board of Directors?
I have a rather diverse background. While completing a Bachelors degree in Management, I was pivotal in the creation and operation of prosperous movie theater/family entertainment center businesses. While on the Granbury Airport Board, we developed a new jet-friendly runway and enhanced facilities. For 19 years, I’ve been a Firefighter/EMT, presently volunteering in Healy while retaining “lifetime membership” as a certified Master Firefighter where I started in Texas. I hold commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates and established successful tourism businesses in the Denali area. Joining the GVEA Member Advisory Committee in 2017 opened my eyes to GVEA’s priorities, enhanced my education, and set the stage for my transition to the District 7 board position when Mr. Nordmark resigned. As a current Director, I’ve immersed myself into GVEA’s business dealings, finances, and strategic decisions, and I feel well-adapted to continue in this capacity.
What do you perceive as your role and responsibilities as a GVEA Director?
As a Director, I wish to engage members for input on significant decisions that affect our communities and livelihoods—and we have several major “legacy level” decisions to be made in the coming years. While the board does not directly manage GVEA operations, we do oversee management, setting performance goals, metrics, and expectations that guide the future of the organization. I will ensure that all decisions balance fiscal, environmental, and community responsibility, while making strides to ensure GVEA employees have safe working conditions and are treated with due respect and appreciation.
What specific things would you like to accomplish as a GVEA Director?
Healy Unit 1 has been a reliable workhorse for 50 years, but with the end of the EPA’s consent decree, GVEA is faced with a rapidly approaching decision to upgrade the emissions control system or retire the plant completely. While we can all agree that green energy is compelling, we can’t underscore our massive local coal reserve. The ability to responsibly convert coal into clean energy within the Denali Borough with minimal transportation expense or environmental impact is absolutely critical to GVEA’s (and our community’s) goals. I’d like to make the investment into Healy Unit 1 to add a selective catalytic reduction system, providing job security at both GVEA and Usibelli Coal Mine while creating affordable energy well into the foreseeable future with substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
What do you think should be GVEA’s energy goals and objectives?
Reliability of our grid is of paramount importance as nearly all Alaskans depend on AC power in some form for winter heating. Many lessons can be gleaned from ERCOT’s mismanagement and the failures of power production in Texas this winter in order to ensure we never see such troubles here. In Alaska, aggressive tree and brush maintenance must be prioritized to keep power lines clear and functional in winter weather. Additionally, fiscally conservative decision making should be at the forefront of all GVEA goals. Affordable electricity allows members to use AC power as a tool to reduce other costs and environmental impacts—electric vehicles for example. Without affordable power, these options will never be viable. As our grid grows, technology advances, and costs decrease, we should incorporate more environmentally responsible energy and battery storage into GVEA’s system without sacrificing reliability.
What would you do to position GVEA for the future?
At the core, an organization is only as strong as its people. GVEA benefits from a highly skilled workforce with men and women that can take on more responsibility in the coming years. I believe education, mentorship, cross-training, and technological improvements will allow our current teams to promote into larger decision-making roles, strengthening the organization from within. Additionally, we must support our Member Advisory Committee. These local resident-members hold both the Board’s and Management’s feet to the fire, ensuring that major decisions reflect the best interests of the communities served.