Powering Strong Communities

Colin Hansen installed as chair of the APPA Board of Directors

Colin Hansen, executive director of Kansas Municipal Utilities (KMU) in McPherson, Kansas, was installed as chair of the American Public Power Association Board of Directors during APPA’s National Conference in Orlando, Florida, on June 23.

Anthony Cannon, general manager and CEO of Greenville Utilities Commission in Greenville, North Carolina, is chair-elect for 2021-2022. David Osburn, general manager of Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority in Edmond, Oklahoma, is vice chair. Jolene Thompson, president and CEO of American Municipal Power, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, is immediate past chair. Layne Burningham, president and CEO of Utah Municipal Power Agency in Spanish Fork, Utah, is treasurer.  

Jolene Thompson hands chairman's gavel to Colin Hansen at APPA National Conference

Hansen says one of his key goals is to tell the stories of small public power systems

“One of the things that makes my job so interesting, but also very challenging, is that the defining characteristic of my membership is the small size,” Hansen said in remarks made at the national conference. “I serve 118 public power systems in Kansas and the median size of those 118 public power systems is a utility that serves 932 customers. In fact, only eight of our members serve more than 5,000 customers,” he said.

“If you look more broadly across the United States at the 2,000 public power systems, 82 percent of those serve fewer than 10,000 customers and almost half serve fewer than 2,000 meters,” Hansen noted.

“So given the unique nature of my organization and the Kansas public power community, one of the primary goals in my year as board chair is to tell the stories of the small public power systems, learn the stories of the small public power systems and shine a light on the innovative, professional, resilient and reliable small systems run by incredibly dedicated and energetic public power professionals all across the country,” Hansen said.

“This is not to say that we won’t continue to uplift the absolutely amazing work being done by our large public power systems,” he went on to say. “From SMUD and GRDA to Austin Energy, SRP, LADWP and so many others” including KMU’s largest member, the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities. “Thank you for being public power leaders.”

Hansen said that like large public power systems, smaller public power systems are “doing some really incredible things too.”

By way of example, Hansen noted that the City of Lindsborg, Kansas, a town of 3,500 people, has an “innovative and progressive small public power system. The city leads the way for other Kansas public power systems on adoption of electric vehicles, with the city even purchasing its own Tesla and charging stations to encourage greater tourism in Kansas and load growth for the utility.”

Sioux Center, Iowa, which serves 2,700 electric customers, “has been defined by quietly demonstrating bold planning and visionary thinking for well over half a century. All the way back in the 1950s, the city began purchasing hydropower from dams on the Missouri River and even had some years where a hundred percent of the city’s power was provided via hydropower,” Hansen said. In the 1960s, the city moved to convert the electric distribution system to underground lines to improve the utility’s reliability and the city’s aesthetics, he noted.

Another example is the City of Norway, Mich., Hansen said. “Norway is a city of fewer than 3,000 people in Northern Michigan, where they operate their own Sturgeon Falls hydro electric plant and can provide up to 95 percent of their electricity using renewable and carbon free resources,” Hansen said.

“In many small public power systems all across the country, the city took on providing these services because they would have had to do without otherwise,” he noted. “Norway, for example, was one of the first communities in the nation to build its own cable TV system.”

Meanwhile, streetlights were switched on with electricity for the first time in May 1920 “and they have been lighting downtown Jackson Center, Ohio, ever since. Today, Jackson Center has a population of nearly 1,500 and even though they're located in a rural area, approximately 1,700 people commute daily to work in the village.” Hansen noted that “the city boasts a great deal of industry including Airstream, the American iconic aluminum travel trailers. Airstream began manufacturing their trailers in Jackson Center in 1952. Today, the company employs more than 1,000 people and turns out over a hundred trailers a week.”

While Kansas-based McPherson Board of Public Utilities only serves just over 8,000 customers in Central Kansas, it has 235 megawatts of generating capacity, Hansen said. He noted that 77 percent of its electric sales are to industrial customers. “With industrial rates 26 percent lower than the national average – not to mention the reliability ratings of 99.99 percent through a fully redundant electric system – the utility has spurred incredible economic development in Central Kansas, serving a vibrant and diverse industrial base that includes plastics, fiberglass insulation and pharmaceuticals.”

Hansen also provided examples of how small public power systems have proven their resilience and grit, as well as noting that both large and small public power systems are “about visionary and urgent leadership and living with urgency.”

In a recent episode of APPA’s Public Power Now podcast, Hansen and Thompson discussed the transition from Thompson as chair of APPA’s Board of Directors to Hansen. Thompson reviewed her accomplishments as board chair, while Hansen detailed what his priorities will be as board chair.

Board members

Hansen chose five members of the board to serve with the officers on the APPA Executive Committee.

They are: John Haarlow, CEO and general manager of Snohomish County PUD in Everett, Washington; Nicholas Lawler, general manager of Littleton Electric Light and Water Departments in Littleton, Massachusetts; Russell Olson, CEO of Heartland Consumers Power District in Madison, South Dakota; Michael Peters, president and CEO of WPPI Energy in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin; and Kimberly Schlichting, chief operating officer and senior vice president of power supply of Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, Inc. in Smyrna, Delaware.  

Newly elected to the APPA board this year are: Tony Pochard, electric utility director of Anderson Municipal Light and Power in Anderson, Indiana; Paul Mahlberg, general manager of Kansas Municipal Energy Agency in Overland Park, Kansas; David Geschwind, executive director and CEO of Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency in Rochester, Minnesota; James Fuller, president and CEO of MEAG Power in Atlanta, Georgia; Paul Lau, CEO and general manager of SMUD in Sacramento, California; Jonathan Hand, executive director of Electric Cities of Alabama in Montgomery, Alabama; and David Carroll, general manager of Paducah Power System in Paducah, Kentucky. 

Five board members were re-elected to new three-year terms: Laurie Mangum, energy services director of City of St. George in St. George, Utah; Edward Krieger, power system director of Piqua Power System in Piqua, Ohio; Darrel Wenzel, CEO and general manager of Waverly Utilities in Waverly, Iowa; David Osburn, general manager of Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority in Edmond, Oklahoma; and Daniel Beans, electric utility director of Redding Electric Utility in Redding, California. 

APPA board members are chosen to represent 10 regions across the country.