Kevin Wells, who started his career in high school with Washington State public power utility Vera Water and Power as a part-time water meter reader in 1973, is ending his 49-year career with the utility, retiring as general manager of Vera Water and Power.
The utility’s Chief Financial Officer and Assistant General Manager Jim Fields has been selected to replace Wells as general manager. Fields has been the assistant general manager since 2008.
Wells became general manager 1992, taking over from Joe Custer, who hired Wells as a teenager.
During his tenure, Wells saw the Vera district grow more than four-fold, from 3,000 customers to 13,000 customers. He prioritized the importance of meeting the needs of the customers, as the community grew exponentially.
While the population in the Spokane Valley exploded, he oversaw the new construction of essential electric and water infrastructure systems to meet the growing demand. Under his leadership, the number of electric substations doubled, and the number of water wells grew by 40 percent.
Wells oversaw the implementation of SCADA at the utility, which is the system of hardware and software elements that allow the utility to monitor, gather and process real-time information about its electric and water systems.
Wells also managed complicated regulatory issues, water rights and government compliance. He was responsible for securing the lowest-priced wholesale electricity for distribution on the utility’s system. Since the cost of wholesale electricity is the utility’s single highest expense, this effort is extremely important to maintaining low rates.
Wells also managed to keep customer prices low while securing Vera’s financial position in a way that puts the District in its best financial shape in its history.
He also created a culture of safety for employees, the community, and the general public. He implemented the District’s accident prevention policy.