Eight candidates vie for 3 seats on AEC board

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AEC Candidates
AEC Candidates

Eight candidates are hoping to win one of three spots on the Anza Electric Cooperative board during this year’s member election.

In District 1, incumbent W.A. “Chilli” Ainsworth is facing off against challenger Roberta “Birdie” Kopp. For District 2, the most crowded of the three districts up for election, incumbent Mike Machado is running for reelection against candidates Hope Adams, Gerald Clarke and Ed Wall. In District 3, incumbent Steve Lauzier hopes to retain his seat against challenger Keith Penny.

All members are only allowed to vote once, and polls will officially open Monday, Aug. 24, and close Wednesday, Sept. 16, before the meeting.

“Paper ballots will be mailed to all members,” Kevin Short, general manager of AEC, said. “Those members with valid emails in our database will also be emailed instructions for voting online. To ensure receipt of the email, please whitelist noreply@directvote.net before Aug. 24.”

Results will be announced during the annual membership meeting Saturday, Sept. 19, which will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AEC announced in a news release.

The cooperative will broadcast its annual reports over its YouTube and Facebook social channels, as well as a live audio simulcast courtesy of local radio station KOYT-FM 97.1 Community Radio.

“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been challenged to operate a bit differently in 2020,” Short said. “Our annual meeting is a big event for the community every year, as well as a requirement for us. We provide our members with important information regarding the cooperative, conduct regular voting on issues and director seats, as well as information on our various programs. This year, we decided to go virtual.”

AEC members can view the meeting stream on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY71W_S8lPCTzMGc3jeKi5g/featured or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Anzaelectric/.

KOYT-FM 97.1 radio will broadcast the event live. The broadcast report will be followed by live election result announcements and a Q&A session.

Roberta “Birdie” Kopp. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

District 1

Kopp and Ainsworth are the only two candidates hoping to win the seat representing constituents in District 1. While Ainsworth chose to not run his biography and a photo, Kopp, who was born in Huntington Park and raised in Pasadena did.

Kopp graduated from Pasadena Community College and transferred to California State University Long Beach, where she received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting. After graduation, she joined the CPA firm of KPMG, one of the four largest professional services firms in the world. She left KPMG after eight years and went into private industry where she has held several C-Suite positions, including Western region chief financial officer for Toshiba Business Solutions and Southern California marketplace chief financial officer for Ikon. Both positions included responsibility for annual budgets of more than $150 million and management over human resources, information technology, accounting and finance, purchasing, inventory control and distribution.

Kopp has served on the advisory board for the accounting department at Pasadena Community College, the English department of California State University Long Beach, the boards of Camp Cherith, which is a Christian youth camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, and a musical repertory theater group. Three years ago, Kopp and her husband, Jonathan Crook, moved to Aguanga where she opened her own accounting services business. Most of her clients are in Orange and Los Angeles counties, and she provides services in due diligence, workflow management, software conversions and training to create efficiencies and to improve bottom line results.

Kopp and her husband have five adult children and 13 grandchildren. She said she believes in the importance of being involved in the community you live in and giving of yourself in areas where you believe you can make a difference. They are members of City Reach Anza, which was formerly Valley Gospel, and regular volunteers at the monthly Anza co-op food giveaway.

Kopp is a member of the Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Council, the treasurer of the Lake Riverside Estates board and serves on the board of the Anza Community Hall.

Hope Adams. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo
Mike Machado. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo
Gerald Clarke. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

District 2

In District 2, Machado, a nine-year veteran on the AEC board of directors, hopes to retain his seat as he takes on Adams, Clarke and Wall – who chose not to participate.

Machado described himself as an “American patriot with strong rural American values.” He has spent 36 years as a resident and business owner in Anza.

“I have worked hard to achieve many successes in my life and for the community; including the 24 years as a director of Anza Electric Cooperative. As the members’ representative I think about my responsibility to them. Often directors are elected because of their popularity rather than ability, but that has never been the case with me. The job is not easy when you are there to serve a purpose and make a difference,” Machado said.

Machado was first elected in 1987 “because the cooperative was near bankruptcy, and I returned in 2011 after a major rate increase,” he said. “As a problem solver I never walk away from a challenge and not quiet about what should be done. I have drafted 13 policy changes and offered two resolutions to NRECA. I was appointed to GCSECA in 2018 and represented Anza against people like Tom Steyer and George Soros who try to control our energy, argued in favor of the Keystone Pipeline at NRECA in 2016, supported Resolutions for American Energy Independence in 2017, and it was my motion that brought about Sun Anza and Connect Anza moving closer to economic security and reliable energy for our community.

“I have argued on behalf of the people of Anza in several settings, including twice in front of 575 cooperatives, from 50 states, representing 42 million Americans. I cherish rural American electric cooperatives because they are the biggest voice of the United States of America, and a shining example of our Republican form of government, and the Democratic structure of the peoples will.

“It is a troubling time, but I see great things in our future. Let’s stay strong and make our votes count,” Machado said.

Adams said she was excited to be running for a seat on the AEC board.

“I have resided and run the ‘AA Ranch’ here in Anza for the past 23 years,” she said. “I have owned/operated several types of businesses over the past 40 years and have developed a keen understanding of fiscal responsibilities and appreciation of profit/loss and cost savings.”

Adams said she feels “uniquely qualified,” for a seat on the AEC board.

“My late husband, Bill Adams, served on the board for many years, including as president for several consecutive years,” she said. “I have firsthand knowledge of the co-op functions and responsibilities to its constituents.”

Her goal should she be elected is to “represent our community and work in conjunction with the board toward mutually beneficial goals, while perpetuating the strength of the co-op, and working with the board by supporting affordable and reliable services for all members, advocating for the enhancement of clean/renewable energy to meet the explosive demand for broadband internet and avidly representing my constituents by voicing their concerns, ideas and requests.

“If elected, it will be an honor for me to represent you and work to maintain the excellent reputation of Anza electric co-op,” she said. “Thank you for your consideration and I would very much appreciate your vote.”

Clarke said his family has “lived in the Anza Valley for time immemorial.”

As an enrolled member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, Clarke lives in the home his grandfather built in 1940 on the Cahuilla Reservation and currently oversees the Clarke family cattle ranch. He is currently employed as an assistant professor at the University of California Riverside where he teaches classes in Native American studies. He is heavily involved in the reclamation and preservation of traditional Cahuilla culture.

Clark said his father Gerald “Jerry” Clarke Sr. was a lifelong resident of the Anza Valley and worked as an electrician. Jerry installed electricity in his parent’s home in the 1960s when it became available locally. Upon his father’s death in 2003, Gerald Jr. moved into the “old home place” and has since added a solar array to the home but remains tied to AEC’s grid.

In 2005, Gerald built a storage facility, Anza Valley Storage, which is located off Howard Road. With over 45 storage units available, this business has successfully assisted Anza Valley residents with their storage needs. Additionally, Gerald raises cattle, buy/sells hay and spends time “fixin’ fence.”

Clarke has two daughters. Emily Clarke is a junior at University of California Rivers studying creative writing and Lily Clarke is a senior at Hamilton High School and plans to pursue a career in medicine.

“I seek to serve all members of the area and understand the importance of reliable and affordable electric for all residents and area businesses,” Clarke said.

Ed Wall chose not to participate in this article.

Keith Penny. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

District 3

Incumbent Steve Lauizer did not participate in this story, but challenger Keith Penny, who is retired from transportation and holds a bachelor’s degree did.

Penny, is a seven-year member of AEC member advisory committee who believes in the level pay plan option. If elected, he would like to see all meetings complaint with the Brown Act, hold monthly question and answer sessions on KOYT radio and implement time of day pricing options and a student service credit program.

Penny’s other plans include software upgrade to only notify members in affected areas of power loss, unless it is a systemwide shutdown, to explore community choice aggregations and to review AEC policy members with solar power. Penny would also like to implement a summer discount plan with an option for members to sign up and have AEC shut off air conditioners when peak usage threatens brown outs.

“In exchange, the member would get a lower summer rate,” he said.

Kim Harris can be reached by email at valleyeditor@reedermedia.com.