Meet the SUD Commissioner Candidates
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Five candidates are competing for the two open seats on the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners. Read on to learn about the candidate’s thoughts on what SUD should focus on and their reasons for wanting to serve on the SUD board. Voting begins Jan. 3 and continues through Jan. 25 at the SUD office during regular business hours.
Paul Evan’s 2012 marriage to Sewanee resident Katherine Alvarez brought him to the community. Evans seeks reelection to the board after serving a four-year term. Evans has a B.A. in accounting and stresses the importance of focusing on the financial side of operations. He sees SUD’s challenges as twofold: “balancing income and expense with infrastructure needs and managing the relation between the utility and the University.” Evans points to the trend in rural areas losing population and coincidentally revenue and managerial expertise. For SUD, the high percentage of revenue coming from one customer, the University, further complicates the picture. “The relationship between SUD and the University needs to be nurtured and cared for,” Evans insisted. Citing the example of the cost to SUD of the project to narrow Highway 41A, Evans said “if the University were not involved, we’d be in big trouble.”
Brandi Henley has lived in Sewanee seven years. Many people still know her as Brandi Hargis, her name before marrying lifelong Sewanee resident Randall Henley. As a commissioner, Henley would bring three-year’s experience working as a utility clerk in an office using the same program as SUD. “I want to help keep utility rates low, work on long-term strategic plans and budgeting, and manage water loss,” Henley said. “Water loss is just money wasted,” she insisted. “Water being produced and not used is money lost.” Henley would like to see an arrangement with the University for using water from Lake Dimmick in an emergency to help lower tap fees and argues the University should pay for the utility work needed in conjunction with narrowing Highway 41A. “They [the University] wanted it,” Henley stressed.
Sewanee native Johnny Hughes has lived here 54 years. “My knowledge of the community will be an asset as a SUD commissioner,” Hughes said. “The biggest issue facing SUD short term is the money spent on infrastructure due to the narrowing of Highway 41A. TDOT or the University, or a combination of the two, should pay for this,” he insisted, “keeping SUD customers off the hook.” Looking ahead, Hughes wants to see SUD “capitalize on grants and money coming down from the federal level to help fund future projects to keep things up to date.” Hughes long list of community involvement includes coaching youth baseball, serving on the University Employee Action Committee, the July 4th Committee, and 16 years on the Franklin County Commission. “Serving on the SUD board would give me another opportunity to serve the community I love,” Hughes said.
Donnie McBee has lived in Sewanee his entire life. His family heritage dates back to Civil War times. McBee’s knowledge about water issues stems from his work as a logger and 25 years as a forester for University Facilities Management, where he holds the title Senior Forester. “I grew up in the timber industry,” McBee said. “I’m savvy about water runoff and erosion.” He claims first-hand knowledge of the project that brought water to the Jump Off community. “We [Jump Off residents] paid for a pipeline for SUD to bring us water,” he said, citing the 13-year payoff plan. Being a SUD commissioner “is a community service,” McBee insisted. “I feel like I have something to offer in my knowledge of the area and the local people …People have a lot of questions. I’d like to be able to give them answers.”
John Moos and his wife Brenda moved to Sewanee in 2009. A University of Louisville graduate, Moos served as a U.S. Marines officer and is retired from the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service. Moos has experience in maintenance, logistics, administration, procurement contracting, budgeting, finance, residential construction, travel, transportation, supply, and warehousing. “SUD should focus on modernizing, as well as expanding services to meet increased demand and growing needs,” Moos said. He welcomes the opportunity “to be a service to my community.”