Gary Newman – Bio

District 4 Candidate, Incumbent
Nominated by committee

Primary Residence: 1083 Esro Rd
Phone: 907-488-2001
Email: gary@chena.org
Years in Alaska: 49 years

Occupation/Employer: Retired; Information Systems Administrator for UAF 12 years; Facilities Manager, Energy and Housing Manager, Telecommunications Manager for Tanana Chiefs Conference 15 years; Energy auditor 5 years; Telephone PBX Journeyman Installer for Fairbanks Municipal Utilities System 8 years.

Education: B.A. Psychology; CCD (Credentialed Cooperative Director) certification, required of GVEA Directors; PBX Journeyman; Certified Energy Auditor, Cisco Networking (CCNA), many other certificates/trainings in the course of my professions.

Personal interests/hobbies: Community service, playing Celtic music, sound engineering, photography, hiking, chain sawing, history of Alaska and the Fairbanks area, technology in general.

Organization affiliation:
Golden Valley Electric Association Board of Directors 2015 – present, Secretary; Associated organizations as a GVEA Director:  National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association, Northwest Public Power Association, Alaska Power Association; University of Alaska Fairbanks Master Plan Committee – 2005 – present, currently community representative; Contra Borealis Dancers board of directors 1993 – present; Esro Road Association 2008 – present, President; Northern Lights Council of Dancers Board of Directors 2013 – 2019, board chair; Friends of Koponen Homestead Board (promoting non-motorized trails in the Chena Ridge area) 2014 – present

Special interest/Community service:
I have always been one to give to my community where the need was demonstrated and I had the expertise to offer. I have long had an active interest in GVEA as a member-owned electric cooperative. GVEA is a major contributor to the health, welfare and economy of our communities and I take seriously the responsibility of serving. I particularly appreciate that GVEA is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, non-political organization dedicated to serving our members.

Meet the Candidate Q&A

Why are you interested in running for a seat on GVEA’s board?
We must continue to build and maintain trust with our members. I first ran for the Board in 2015 with commitments to promote goals of Reasonable Rates, Reliability, Responsible Investment, Transparency and Communication with members. Much progress has been made in all these areas with more to come. These goals are part of the Board’s Strategic Directives to Management. www.gvea.com/about-gvea and https://bit.ly/GVEA_Accomplishments.

There remain significant challenges and opportunities in a changing electric industry to insure reasonable rates and reliability: improved integration with the other Railbelt utilities for significant cost savings, attention to resilience and cyber-security, aging fossil-fuel generation in Healy and Fairbanks, increased renewables and energy storage where it makes economic sense in stabilizing fuel costs.  I remain committed to build trust with our members in meeting these challenges and opportunities.  Finally, I’m always open to hearing from members.

What business, technical and governance knowledge, skills and experience will you bring to GVEA’s Board of Directors?

I bring to the Board extensive experience, expertise and knowledge, detailed in my bio above in all of these areas.  I am always learning and work diligently to be informed about the complexities of the utility business and GVEA.   With integrity, I apply critical thinking and common sense in decision-making.   I also recognize that GVEA plays a significant role in empowering Interior Alaska’s economy and well-being and am supportive of efforts, such as helping those in need during the pandemic. I am diligent and passionate for what GVEA can bring to our members and communities.

What do you perceive as your role and responsibilities as a GVEA Director?

It is every director’s job to exercise due diligence and the fiduciary responsibility we owe GVEA.  As a team, through the CEO, directors review and approve the annual budget and importantly, provide strategic direction to management.  We must watch our debt and equity level and always look to members’ interests to whom we are accountable.

The Board doesn’t run the company. That’s management’s job. The Board set forth “Strategic Directives” for management to accomplish.  See my website gvea.chena.org to read them. It is my responsibility as a director on behalf of GVEA members to insure those directives are being followed.

What specific things would you like to accomplish as a GVEA Director?

  • Rates: Stabilize and lower rates through new rate strategies and efficiencies with technology, push for more Railbelt electric utilities’ cooperation, and increase reliability. Continue paying back capital credits to members.
  • Energy Efficiency: I expect a significant effort toward helping members who want to reduce their kilowatt use.
  • Reliability: Increased efforts to keep easements cleared. GVEA has a plan – let’s implement it. Cybersecurity protocols are imperative.
  • Member Trust: Two of my prior goals were member focused: transparency and two-way member communication. With my advocacy, GVEA is more transparent to members through their website and social media.  The outage reporting system and access to your electric history are examples of informing members. I expect member communication and community engagement to expand.  Communication is key to building trust.
  • Tout Our Accomplishments: In the nearly 6 years I’ve served on the Board, we’ve accomplished a lot. See bit.ly/GVEA_Accomplishments. More can and should be done.

What do you think should be GVEA’s energy goals and objectives?

The core of GVEA’s mission,Safe, Reliable Electric Service at Fair and Reasonable Prices”, and the “Strategic Directives” to Management say it well.

One strategic directive is to address our aging generation units from the 1960’s and 1970’s, both coal and diesel.   Decisions must balance fuel, operational, and capital costs as well regulatory and environmental considerations and, of course, reliability.   We can now consider non-traditional opportunities that include energy storage, renewables, members’ distributed generation, along with new demands for electricity like heat pumps and electric powered vehicles.

Railbelt electric cooperatives agree we must work together to share and expand generation and transmission resources.  This will be a major shift over time leading to a more reliable, economic, and efficient system for all.  It can also offer opportunities for cost-effective renewable sources.

What we decide in the next few years will set our course for decades and must be sustainable.

What would you do to position GVEA for the future?

We must take advantage of the new energy landscape and carefully evaluate future generation decisions and the financial and operational impacts. We must understand the complexities and balance risk with reward.

The GVEA Board is highly engaged, management is enthusiastic about accomplishing its directives, and employees are energized and hard working.   I have been humbled by the responsibility entrusted by the members. I pledge to dedicate the time and effort to be informed, risk aware, and advocate for the best solutions for a bright future for GVEA on behalf of our members. We can do this.  Please vote.