Meet Dan Kay, Wahkiakum PUD's new manager
September 16, 2021
Dan Kay's first day at the Wahkiakum County PUD was on August 26, but his first day as general manager came last week, when Dave Tramblie made his retirement official.
Luckily, it's a position he's been in before. Still there is a lot to learn, and a lot of people to meet.
"It's like drinking water from a firehose," Kay said.
Kay, who grew up in Zillah is no stranger to hard work and small communities.
After graduating from high school, he headed to Pullman to attend Washington State University. Pretty certain that corporate agriculture wasn't in his future, he went on to get an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering.
In 1994, he went to work for Lewis County PUD, starting in an entry level electrical engineering position, which he described as customer service engineering.
"We were the ones who get you taken care of," he said, "when you move to the community and you need electric service or you buy a piece of property and you need to get hooked up."
He worked his way up through engineering management, eventually managing the utility.
"I've done everything from customer service work, to line design, both overhead and underground, substation, protection studies, all that behind the scenes stuff to keep the lights on," Kay said. "During that process, I also obtained my professional engineers license and went back and got my Masters in Business Administration."
He was at Lewis County for not quite 25 years. In 2018, the commissioners decided they wanted someone who was a little stronger on the power supply side of the world, he explained. He was really good at the engineering side, so commissioners decided to go in another direction.
He spent the next three years working for Grays Harbor PUD.
My whole career has been in the utility industry," he said. "Now I'm here."
"Here was an opportunity to go back to some of those core fundamental roots," Kay said. "Things you grow up with. The variety of jobs and responsibility. This morning, meeting with customers, this afternoon talking about major projects that impact our community like broadband, and everywhere in between. Dealing with some protection issues, to making sure we have enough material for the large customer growth that's happening."
"I feel like I can make a difference and give back to our community," he added.
Kay is feeling pretty grateful for the warmth and welcome he's experienced in the community, whether he's gone to the store to buy groceries, or stopped by the courthouse to register a vehicle.
"It feels like a good fit," Kay said.
He is taking advantage of these early days to build relationships with team members, and with community leaders.
"The utility is very well run, and seems to have a very positive relationship with the community," Kay said. "I'm taking time to take it all in, learn, and assess where we are at."
"Public power is about low rates, local control, and high reliability," Kay said. "We need to be fiscally responsible and do a darn good job of keeping the lights on, in addition to, I believe the economic development side, and that's broadband."
"Long term, we have some challenges ahead," he added. "There are competing interests. Greenhouse gas emissions and governmental regulations, while trying to maintain affordability and reliability. All while trying to reinvest in our system. We need to make sure our poles are replaced, our transformers are replaced."
Most importantly, he believes people are customers not rate payers.
In other words, it's a two way relationship.
"You have local control, you elect a group of people to set policy, approve budgets, and the direction of the PUD," Kay said. "I love having you at the meetings. The PUD is here for the people. In my opinion you are customers, not rate payers."