Seven Candidates for Board of Directors

Coop CurrentsCoop News

Vote by mail in 2022

Every year, WEC’s membership elects three fellow members to serve on the Co-op’s nine-seat Board of Directors. The members who serve in these critical roles oversee management and staff and make policy and leadership decisions for the member-owned electric utility. 

In 2022, to date, seven candidates are vying for three seats. Two of these seats are vacant, as Directors Barry Bernstein and Annie Reed will not run for re-election. Steven Farnham of Plainfield is the sole incumbent running for re-election.

In alphabetical order, the remaining seven candidates are Susan Alexander of Cabot, Betsy Allen of Plainfield, Olivia Campbell Andersen of East Montpelier, Pat Barnes of Vershire, Rachel Onuf of Washington, and JJ Vandette of Middlesex.

Candidates may continue to enter the race until the March 7 final deadline.

In March, Co-op Currents introduces Board candidates to members. Please read their introductory statements in this issue. In the April issue, candidates have the opportunity to expand on their introductory statement in answers to policy questions.

How to vote

In 2022, all voting will take place by mail. In April, you’ll receive a packet containing ballots for the Board of Directors election and bylaw changes and the Annual Meeting issue of Co-op Currents. Check the deadline to post your votes by mail. WEC members may write in names of unofficial candidates. All candidates run at-large.

WEC will hold a virtual Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 5. There will be no opportunity to vote in person this year.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Despite reading Currents for decades and having seen vacancies on the Board come and go, I only now find myself at that perfect intersection of time, opportunity, and interest to support WEC as a board member. I welcome the challenge of becoming fluent in the world of electricity and utility regulation while bringing my own toolbox of skills and knowledge in continuing a solid path forward, maintaining the excellent service members expect, and supporting the organization and its leadership. In the years that I have been a member, I have seen WEC grow, change, succeed, and lead largely due to the cooperative model of customer engagement and support. I consider WECs renewable energy portfolio as a source of community well-being knowing there is stewardship and sustainability underpinning our energy choices that fuel our daily activities. Working within my community to improve our overall health and well-being is a basic tenet of mine. Clean and affordable energy options are good for us in Vermont and for the planet and that is something I want to be a part of. Given the recent changes in both the staff and on the board makes applying for this vacancy that much more appealing to be able to learn and grow with these new professionals in the next leg of WECs history.  

Betsy Allen
Betsy Allen

As a recently retired elementary public school teacher and math coach for elementary and middle school teachers, I would be honored to be elected to the Board of Directors for the Washington Electric Cooperative team.

During my 30 year teaching career, I had many opportunities to work with teacher and administration teams. I led many professional learning communities of grade level teachers, presented at staff meetings, and was a member of local and national math curriculum development teams, as well as a math coach to elementary and middle school teachers.  Numerous workshops, the Snelling Institute, and several advanced degrees taught me leadership and team building skills that apply both to school and business settings and that I will bring to the WEC Board of Directors.

One of the reasons I am running for a position on the WEC board is that I have noticed how this cooperative really works hard to support our community and its members in many ways. They offer incentives for energy efficient heat pumps and water heaters, pellet stoves and furnaces, home electric car chargers with a power shift program, and the Community Fund. They recently revised the electric rate structure to reflect today’s energy use. And they continue to evaluate utility resources and be 100 percent renewable. These business decisions are all made by thoughtful and caring Board members who work hard to serve our community members’ electric needs.

The newest challenge is deciding about WEC’s involvement to help provide fiber optic broadband service to our rural towns. This is a complicated issue that your Board of Directors and Manager have been researching. If elected I would learn more about this issue and how it may affect the financial future of the cooperative and members. 

In short, I am excited to run for a Director position to join the WEC team of dedicated community members and employees who play such an important role in supporting our community and lives. I am a hard worker who will bring commitment to listen to and consider member needs as decisions are made. Thank you for your vote.

Olivia Campbell Andersen
Olivia Campbell Andersen

As a family farm owner and mother, I deeply understand the need for reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy and connectivity in our rural community. Helping more of our neighbors access and benefit from local renewable electricity, cost effective electric vehicles, renewable heating (geothermal, heat pumps, efficient advanced wood), reliable high-speed internet, and energy efficient technology drives my interest in serving on the Washington Electric Cooperative Board.

Prior to founding Anderbell Acres, an organic flower, fruit, and gourds farm and venue with her husband, Eric, and young daughter, Eleanor, Olivia served as Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont (REV), the state’s non-profit clean energy trades, advocacy, and education organization. Prior to returning to Vermont to lead REV, she advised Maryland’s Governor on environmental, sustainability, energy, budget, agriculture, and transportation issues as Assistant Chief of Staff. She led sustainability, legislative and regulatory affairs, and communications for six years at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Olivia’s career also includes time with Congressman Steny H. Hoyer, the National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. A Vermont Law School alumnus, Olivia and her husband returned to Vermont as the best place to raise their daughter. Olivia earned her undergraduate degree at Gettysburg College. When not working on the farm or advocating for the environment, Olivia enjoys exploring rivers and forests, cross country skiing, and biking rail trails with her family.

Pat Barnes
Pat Barnes

I have been a resident of Vershire for nearly thirty years. My career has been dedicated to science education, and my volunteer work has included community work as an EMT, a firefighter, a justice of the peace, a member of the Board of Civil Authority, and a school-board member.

I would like to join the WEC board as part of the team that carries our Co-op toward the next era. I believe that Co-op members should be producing and consuming more electricity. We need policies that enhance resilience by diversifying our renewable generation (such as solar and wind), while encouraging the transition to efficient electrical power for heat and transportation.

The challenges we face are numerous: increasing local use of electricity; maintaining our power lines in the face of powerful storms and forest threats (such as the Emerald Ash Borer), increasing our grid’s capacity to accommodate distribution—all the while delivering premium service at an affordable price. 

We will need to combine the right incentives and rate structures—wielding the Co-op’s clout with the Vermont Public Utility Commission—to craft policies that serve our members in this decade and beyond. I believe I can bring a collaborative and resourceful energy to this mission.

Steven Farnham
Steven Farnham

Residence: Five generations of my family have been WEC members since power lines were strung across our farm in Plainfield, my home since birth. The farm’s WEC membership has been in my name since 1995. You may contact me at, or 802-917-2581.

Background: Graduated local school system, secured Associate’s in Electronics (with Honours) from VTC; subsequently furthered studies in Business Administration at UVM, and the International College of Cayman Islands. Early engineering career consisted of work at Mitel Semiconductor, GE, and DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) in Quality Assurance, Manufacturing, Technical Support, and a summer job servicing substation equipment at Green Mountain Power. Recent endeavours include semi “retirement” in heavy equipment operation, selling agricultural products, carpentry, machinery repair & restoration.

Community: WEC Board since 2019, including service on the Power and Operations Committee, as well as present or past service on boards of Hunger Mountain food co-op,  Vermont Philharmonic, and Cutler Library. Served with Cutler Friends of the Library, Plainfield planning commission, and Justice of Peace. Fifteen years host of weekly community affairs program – WGDR-FM. Judge at Vermont State Science and Math Fair (now Vt STEM Fair), Volunteer at Barre Opera House, Lost Nation Theatre, and Montpelier Senior Activity Center (pre-CoViD). Forest Pest First Detector: Trained to recognise signs of various exotic invasive tree-eating insect pests.

I have participated in over 75 conferences and seminars aimed at land and woodland management, community/leadership development, environmental concerns and personal interest. These include: Arbour Day (6), Grazing (>5), Forest Ecology Monitoring Cooperative (5), NOFA-VT, Vermont Coverts Cooperator, Vermont Woodlands Association (>3), Abolitionist Challenge (2), Consumer Cooperative Management Association (4), Neighboring Food Co-op Association, Municipal Day (3), Slow Living Summit (3), VECAN (4), VNRC (3).

Current membership in five co-ops: Credit Union, Co-op Insurance, Energy Co-op of Vermont, Hunger Mountain Food Co-op, Washington Electric, and lapsed/past memberships in six others: Cabot Creamery, City Market (Onion River Co-op), Granite City Grocery, Onion River Exchange, Plainfield Co-op, Vermont Development Credit Union (now Opportunities Credit Union).

My affinity for co-ops stems from their obligation to serve their members. No IOU can make that claim. Washington Electric Co-op serves its members well; I am committed to seeing this continue and improve. It’s been an honour to serve my first term; I’d appreciate your support to serve another. Thank you.

Rachel Onuf
Rachel Onuf

The pandemic has gotten me thinking about essential work and essential services. As I sit in my home office on an old side hill farm, peeking out at the sheep in the barnyard, I am grateful for the people who continue to go to their workplaces, ensuring that the grocery store is open and stocked, that the sick are cared for, that the lights stay on. I find myself wishing my day-to-day work was more essential. I love my job as Director of the Vermont Historical Records Program, and enjoy the many opportunities I have to interact with Vermonters, but helping them preserve and provide access to historical records, much as local historians and archivists may value it, is not likely to make anyone’s top ten list of essential jobs. I think my desire to run for a seat on the WEC Board is because I am seeking a way to be more essential to my community.  Participating as a Board member would be to contribute, in a small way, to an organization that provides an essential service.

Since becoming a WEC member in 2017, I have been proud that our electric utility is a cooperative and that our power is derived from 100 percent renewable sources, and have appreciated how well the Board and staff keep members informed through Co-op Currents. It seems like WEC is at a crossroads, with big decisions to make about issues like whether and how to participate in the rollout of universal broadband. The stakes are high, and not just because of the millions of dollars floating around. As an information professional, I am deeply invested in equitable access to information, and these days so much of our essential information, including classes, telehealth appointments, and the news, comes to us via the Internet. From my vantage, I see parallels between the Rural Electrification Act and universal broadband, and it seems natural and just for WEC to be involved in securing affordable Internet access for all of its members…but I also realize how little I know about the complexity of the interplay of the various stakeholders involved. I want to know more. Being a WEC Board member would be an opportunity to dive deep into this issue – and many others – and to work with the rest of the Board to make good decisions that have a positive impact for our members.

JJ Vandette
JJ Vandette

I grew up in New Hampshire, and I studied business and environmental studies at the University of Utah before boomeranging back to New England. I hiked both the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail end-to-end, and then landed my first job in Vermont in 2010. I have been planting roots here ever since. I can be found outside in all seasons, gardening and biking in the warmer months and snowboarding and cross-country skiing in the winter.

I have more than a decade of experience in the energy industry, and I am looking to bring this experience to bear for the Co-op. I am a certified Project Management Professional, a certified Business Energy Professional, and I have a Power Grid School Certificate from Michigan State’s Institute of Public Utilities.