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Future of Traverse City’s municipally owned utility

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Power to the people

Traverse City is set to have not one, but two major changes in top managers for City business. This spring and summer, the City Commission will be hiring a replacement for retiring City Manager Ben Bifoss and they, with Traverse City Light & Power Board, will also be filling the Executive Director post of the municipally owned utility company. The latter is up first, and although the TCLP board is in the middle of a somewhat contested project (RE), they are also determining the path to a replacement for former Executive Director Ed Rice.

Next Tuesday (Feb. 26) the board will decide how they wish to proceed. They may hire in-house (stay with Interim Director), tread water a bit longer, or open it up to a broader applicant search. Many people directly working in the energy world prefer the latter choice (RE).

On January 25th, a press release from TCLP invited public input in the process. As board chairperson, Patrick McGuire, put it, ” The board intends to develop a profile for the Light and Power executive director position, and we invite the participation of our customers and other interested parties in that process. We hope they take the opportunity to provide the board feedback as we begin the search for our next executive director.”

As a citizen-owners and rate payers, I think some of us should take him up on the offer and at the least pay close attention to the proceedings. What profile do you see needed for Light and Power’s next Executive Director? TCLP Board meetings are posted here.

MyWHaT reader Ross Hammersley highlighted this issue with me by sharing his letter to the board and with his permission, we reprint it here (emphasis added). If you want to send your own letter, email addresses for TCLP board members are ready for copy & paste below.

Good afternoon to you all,

My name is Ross Hammersley, and I am a Traverse City resident  and TCLP customer.

I am writing because I believe it is of the utmost importance to the long-term economic health, viability, and sustainability of our cherished municipal utility that the current search for a new Executive Director be opened up to a broader applicant pool so that we can be assured that the city is getting the best possible candidate for the job. As I’m sure you would agree, this position is unique, and the decisions you make in filling this position are likely to impact our city, and indeed, even the region as a whole, for years to come.

The state and national (and international) energy marketplace is going to continue to evolve and transform at a rapid pace over the next five to ten years (and beyond). For example, Governor Snyder has initiated an effort to gather input on a statewide level on the possible extension of renewable energy generation requirements, while technical innovation in renewable energy as well as recent federal lawsuits and regulatory efforts underway at the EPA continue to quickly change the landscape for energy generation costs and capabilities. It is absolutely crucial to the customers of TCLP that the next Executive Director has a deep understanding of the trends and developments in the energy sector, and how the evolution of those trends will impact TCLP’s contracts, its capabilities, operations, and administration.

The citizens of Traverse City have always supported the leadership role that TCLP has taken in years past, establishing the first utility-scale, municipally owned wind turbine in the state, and have begun expressing similar support for the budding Community Solar program as well. A big crowd was on hand to learn more about the potential gains that could be seen by improving the energy efficiency of our city and region when noted expert Mr. Peter Garforth appeared last year, and those efforts look as though they will continue with some momentum as well, given the excellent economic benefits and cost savings that can be reaped as a result of targeted investments. While the M-72 turbine is having its own issues of late, given the fact that wind generation costs are continuing to out-compete even natural gas in long-term contracts, TCLP customers would certainly appreciate the reliability and cost-effectiveness of continued purchases of wind-generated energy, to say nothing of the possible economic and environmental benefits of investing in new wind and solar generation capacity owned and operated by TCLP that won’t be vulnerable to spiking fuel prices or disruptions.

The next Executive Director of TCLP will be expected by the citizens of this community to not only be aware of, but to be deeply involved, and hopefully even leading the way on these and many other issues in the next few years. This person will also be expected to understand the importance of transparency and to effectively solicit and implement constructive community input as well.

This is an exciting time for TCLP and Traverse City. I have nothing against the current Interim Director, and if you conduct a nation-wide search and he is determined to be the most qualified candidate, then so be it. I simply hope, by writing this letter, that I can help to impress upon you the importance of this particular moment in time in the energy sector, and that you can recognize that now is not the time to handle the filling of this position in way that fails to meet the moment.

Therefore, again, I urge you to post the availability of the position of Executive Director of TCLP to the appropriate national outlets, and to conduct an open and comprehensive search for the most qualified and best possible candidates in the applicant pool. The people of Traverse City value TCLP very highly, and monitor and understand energy and its attendant issues perhaps a bit better than one might initially suspect. They deserve nothing but the very best pool of applicants for this position.

Thank you for reading this letter, and if you’d like to contact me for further clarification or if you have any questions or concerns about anything above, please let me know.


Ross Hammersley

Traverse City, MI



 TCLP Board Contacts:

John Taylor <john.a.taylor@gmail.com>, Mike Coco <mjcoco@gmail.com>, Jim Carruthers <jccarruthers@gmail.com>, Patrick McGuire <paddymcguire@me.com>, Michael Estes <mestes@chartermi.net>, Barbara Budros <bbudros2@ci.traverse-city.mi.us>, Robert Spence III <bobspence@spencebrothers.com>, John Snodgrass <snod82.5@gmail.com>







Reminder: Before commenting, please read the comments policy. If you feel you need to rant against the world while raising enumerable tangential issues to personally attack individuals or organizations, consider creating your own blog and tracking back to MyWHaT. If it is of value, you will attract readers. Or, send me a message with all the rants you wish; I’m a connoisseur of ranting. Otherwise, please contribute to a healthy, friendly discussion in the comments section below.


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated. 

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