Munk wins seat for Holy Cross’ southern district
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Dave Munk unseated longtime Holy Cross Energy board of directors member Bob Starodoj in a move that tipped the balance of power on the seven-member board, according to an observer who played a key role in the campaign.
Munk collected 2,115 votes to 1,292 for Starodoj, according to results released Wednesday by Glenwood Springs-based Holy Cross Energy. That is a margin of 62 to 38 percent.
Munk is from Missouri Heights. Starodoj is from Aspen. They battled for a seat from Holy Cross Energy’s southern district.
Starodoj, a 25-year veteran of the board, campaigned on a platform of balance – he supported incorporating environmentally-friendly practices as soon as they were financially practical.
Munk vowed to move Holy Cross to a “greener” position at a faster pace than it was moving. He works in energy efficiency in his regular job and said he could bring some insights to Holy Cross. He also wants the utility cooperative – which provides electricity to large parts of the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys, as well as the Interstate 70 corridor in Garfield County – to be more aggressively on renewable energy programs.
Munk said Wednesday his platform resonated with Holy Cross member who voted in the election.
“I think there’s a growing segment of Holy Cross members who are becoming more interested in the utility and see it as being an important part of their lives and future,” Munk said. “We tried to reach out to members and give them a voice – to show that they can truly be involved with the direction their utility takes moving ahead.”
In other election results, incumbent Michael Glass of the Eagle Valley retained his position on the board of directors by a comfortable margin over two challengers.
In an advisory vote, Holy Cross members supported retaining at-large voting for board of director members rather than switching to a system that would allow only voters in a specific district to vote for their director. It was a narrow margin of victory: 1,849 in favor of at-large and 1,709 in favor of district-only.
Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Co. executive director of sustainability, worked hard to spur environmentalists in the Roaring Fork Valley to support Munk. He claimed the vote shifted the Holy Cross board from “old-school conservative to modern progressive on energy policy.”
By Schendler’s count, there are four solid votes for green initiatives and probably a fifth on most issues.
“I think it’s a brand new day and Holy Cross is going to become, perhaps, internationally known for what it does in the next decade,” Schendler said.
Rural electric cooperatives have garnered interest from environmentalists throughout the West in the last few years because they see utility management as a key to reducing greenhouse gas production, which contributes to climate change. But Holy Cross is one of the few rural cooperatives where a takeover of the board has been successful. Three green candidates have joined the board in the last three elections.
“There have been progressives running [for election with other cooperatives] but they’ve been getting creamed,” Schendler said.
The results in the Starodoj-Munk race didn’t come as a surprise to Holy Cross Energy board president Tom Turnbull, another longtime board veteran who won re-election last year. There was a well-organized campaign by environmentalists for Munk, Turnbull noted.
“I just think it was in the wind,” he said of the results.
He was less certain than Schendler that the election results will have a major change on the board make-up or Holy Cross’ direction.
“It puts four elected green members on the board,” Turnbull acknowledged. “Whether the personal agendas trump good old Holy Cross remains to be seen.”
Turnbull said he believes Holy Cross has a commendable record on renewable energy and energy efficiency issues. It is incorporating renewables as quickly as it can, without affecting the rate its members pay for electricity. When there are opportunities that make sense, “we jump all over them,” he said.
Turnbull questioned if new board members with a green agenda will disagree with that approach.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a huge, instantaneous change,” he said.
The board meets on June 16 and Munk will take office. The seven board members will then select officers, including president, a position Turnbull has held for at least the last decade.
Munk said his initial focus will be responding to members’ preference to increase efficiency and green power. “Members have indicated on two successive surveys that they are willing to spend a little bit more in order to make progress in these areas,” Munk said. “It’s time for Holy Cross to honor those wishes.”
He wants to do that through the Holy Cross WeCare program, which plows 2 percent of the utility’s annual operating revenues into green initiatives. Munk wants to increase that amount to 5 percent, which would be a boost from about $2 million to $5 million.
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