PEC candidates to offer views on competition, elections at forum
CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
HORSESHOE BAY — Two candidates for the Pedernales Electric Cooperative board District 1 position have presented opposing views on how members elect candidates and whether customers should have more power in choosing their source of electricity.
Incumbent Cristi Clement and challenger Mark Axford will outline their differences during an event sponsored by the Horseshoe Bay Property Owners Association at 7 p.m. May 20 at Quail Point Lodge, 107 Twilight Lane.
Clement, a Meadowlakes resident, has served as a director since 2009. Her background includes 24 years as a U.S. Air Force civilian contracting officer in support of aerospace programs and infrastructure in the United States and abroad, according to her biography. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma.
Axford, a Burnet resident, has worked in the electric power industry for 30 years, starting Axford Turbine Power Generation in 2001, his biography states. During his career, he served 180 clients in Texas and the United States and wrote technical and business articles for energy and news publications.
One issue on which the candidates differ involves support for the current at-large voting process to elect candidates.
In the current system, candidates must file to live within the district; however, they must solicit votes from the entire PEC customer base, more than 200,000 members.
Clements supports the current system.
“We have taken this to our members twice now on referendum, and members have expressed to keep the at-large voting as it is,” she said. “It is the least expensive to administer, and it gives the voters more power than the single-member districts.”
Axford believes customers should vote for the candidates within their individual districts.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that at-large voting is for the benefit of the members as a whole,” Axford said. “That’s like saying we should let Californians vote for Texas senators because, after all, senators serve all Americans.”
Another issue on which the candidates disagree involves so-called “open competition” for energy sources.
PEC currently purchases its wholesale power primarily from the Lower Colorado River Authority’s natural gas resources and has ventured into alternative energy markets.
As a result, the utility sets the rate structure for all its customers.
Axford believes PEC customers should have the option of shopping around for their power source much like choosing independent cellphone carriers.
“I’d rather see PEC get serious about price reductions and let their customers choose their provider,” Axford said. “In a free market, like Houston or Dallas, customers can choose to buy renewable energy, and it’s generally available at a much lower price.”
Clement believes the existing cooperative-chosen energy sources will keep prices consistent and offer more in-house control over rates.
“In the 15 years since (competition has) been implemented in Texas, the results are mixed, but there’s more people who end up paying higher,” Clement said. “The way the law is written, it’s irreversible. Once you elect into open competition, you can never get out.”
The candidates will discuss a number of other topics at the upcoming forum as well including board governance, electricity rates, membership representation and public giving.
Go to www.cristiclement.com and www.axfordforpec.com for more information on the candidates.
Along with the District 1 position, voters are also selecting candidates for Districts 6 and 7. Candidates for District 6 are incumbent Larry Landaker of Wimberley and challengers Paul Graf of Spring Branch and Max Hosford of Fischer. Candidates for District 7 are newcomers Jeff Barton and Amy Lea Akers, both of Hays County, and Douglas Kadjar of Kyle.
Online and mail-in voting begins June 12. The election at the PEC annual meeting is June 20 at the Leander ISD South Performing Arts Center, 2150 Cypress Creek Road in Cedar Park.