Seven Candidates Respond to Policy Questions

Coop CurrentsCoop News

Seven Co-op members seek election to three available seats on WEC’s Board of Directors. Each Director serves a three-year term. WEC members may vote for or write in a maximum of three candidates.

Ballots must be returned by mail in 2022, and must be received by the Barre Post Office before the May 4 deadline.

In the March issue of Co-op Currents, candidates are invited to make a brief statement to the membership introducing themselves. In the April issue, candidates respond to the following questions:

  • What is your name, in what town is your Co-op membership, and how should members contact you?
  • What skills, expertise, and/or perspectives would you bring to the Board?
  • What are the most important issues the cooperative will face in the next few years? How would you guide the Co-op in regard to these issues?
  • Is there anything else you would like to tell the members?

Susan Alexander

Susan Alexander

I live in Cabot and am a long-time member of WEC. When we moved here, ours was the first power line brought up the road and we have enjoyed increasingly good and clean service since. My professional career has spanned both private and public sectors.  For the past 12 years I have been self-employed as an environmental management consultant and the founder and former owner of a small craft beverage business.  I currently work as an independent contractor managing the Lamoille Solid Waste District’s 5 recycling facilities and Lamoille Soil Composting facility.  I have degrees in both Forestry (College of ESF) and Soil Science (Cornell).  I am available by phone 802-563-3259 or email

Working for a 12-member Board I am cognizant of the commitment and dedication required of Board members. My work has also provided me with experience digesting government regulation and policy.  Having served on a number of Boards (school, wastewater, community coalition) I can appreciate the need for diverse perspectives in building a strong program and making compromises when presented with compelling data. When the ban on food scraps in the landfill was passed, I was in the process of building a composting facility that would effectively cut into the supply of methane that runs WECs generators in Coventry where my electricity was being generated. Understanding and communicating both sides of that equation is an excellent example of where conflicting regulatory and policy priorities benefits from a broad base of stakeholders and decision makers. Additionally, I have experience building budgets, reading financial statements, managing a staff of 18 and I am currently responsible for a $1.7M budget.

Always important to members are cost and efficiency and while WEC has been a leader in renewable energy and staunchly promoting efficiency there is no terminal point on those fronts.  Making best use of Coop dollars, investing wisely and monitoring debt being critical functions.  Updating and security of our infrastructure and the extended network may be less on members minds and yet a real challenge with accelerating technology.  And not in any order is climate, climate, and climate.  I am involved with a community of practitioners through the Climate Catalyst program of the Vermont Council on Rural Development creating tools to connect, share, and support efforts to mitigate impacts on climate. I am not an expert and I am aware there will be a steep learning curve to become proficient in content and priorities and yet I welcome that.

Thank you for the opportunity to take up the mantle representing our membership on the WEC Board with hopes of filling some very big shoes although that will certainly take some time.

Betsy Allen

Betsy Allen

Hi, I am Betsy Allen.  You can reach me at or leave a phone or text message at 802-535-7088.

Prior to moving to Plainfield, I resided and raised two children in Glover. My former husband and I built our home and maple sugaring businesses, which some of you may know. Sugarwoods Farm produced and marketed maple products and Waterloo USA sold maple equipment. As in any small business, I learn to do it all. My responsibilities included tapping and boiling, canning syrup, wholesale and retail sales, marketing, bookkeeping, purchasing and inventory, and whatever else was needed.

In addition to co-owning the maple businesses, I have worked in public education for more than 30 years. I was an elementary classroom teacher, then (and currently) a math coach to elementary and middle school teachers, and a graduate level instructor for teachers. Numerous workshops both local and national, the Snelling Institute, and several advanced degrees taught me leadership and team building skills that apply both to school and business settings.  I will bring my experience and tools to the WEC Board of Directors.

While my children were young, I volunteered as a Girl Scout leader and started cross country ski programs for the Glover School and the Bill Koch Ski Program for area kids. I wrote grants to secure ski equipment for the school where I was teaching. Those were very busy years!

When I moved to East Hardwick and built my own home, I chose to live off the grid with a battery solar system and back up generator.  This was a personal choice to live simply with renewable power.  I look forward to working with WEC’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy.

When electric cars first emerged on the market, I was right there, along with the initial WEC and federal incentives to purchase a Nissan Leaf. I had a Level 2 Charger installed (bought used from Steve Knowlton).  I currently own my second electric car, the Chevy Bolt.   I am excited WEC has been in the forefront to support members with incentives, charging stations, and the power shift program.

As we move ahead with technological advances and increased electrical needs with heat pumps and water heaters, pellet stoves, electric cars and more, I believe my personal experiences and history of choosing alternative energy resources will contribute to making informed and thoughtful decisions. I enjoy working with teams of people to affect positive change.

I am eager to run for a Board of Directors position to join the WEC team of dedicated community members and staff who play such an important role in supporting our community and lives.  I am a hard worker who will bring commitment to the job. I will listen to and consider members’ needs as decisions are made. Thank you for your vote.

Olivia Campbell Andersen

Olivia Campbell Andersen


My passion is catalyzing equitable climate solutions and empowering others.  I have nearly two decades of experience and diverse skills in creating collaborative partnerships and crafting innovative policies as a communications, renewable energy, and sustainability advisor to non-profit, business, and government leaders.  Growing up on a small family farm in southern Maryland under constant development pressure, and now as a beginning farmer and small business owner in East Montpelier, I see intimately the economic challenges and climate changes facing our rural community. 

I dwell in possibility, believing that nothing is impossible with hard work, creativity, and integrity.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve on our electric coop’s Board because I believe that we are stronger, smarter, and more effective when we work together and everyone in our community is served fairly.

Climate and economic resilience and lack of broadband connectivity are the most significant issues facing the cooperative.  Much of the infrastructure we rely on for daily life—roads, electrical grid, communications, and water systems—was built a half century or longer ago when weather patterns were relatively stable and predictable. Over the last decade, the annual cost of electric outages and storm recovery exacerbated by more frequent and intense weather events due to climate change cost each Vermont household hundreds of dollars every year and in recent years cumulatively caused WEC members to lose millions.  WEC has a responsibility to build and maintain a distributed, resilient, and modern energy system we need today and tomorrow.

Science fiction author William Gibson said that “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”  His words are particularly apt in describing modern broadband, renewable energy, efficiency, and grid management tools.  Too many Vermonters are unable to directly access the benefits of these climate and cost saving technologies, and I don’t want our community to be left behind due to our rural location or individual household’s income. WEC can serve as a facilitator and where appropriate a service provider to increase equitable access to broadband, climate, and energy resilience solutions.

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 of Directors since 2019, 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. Current membership in five co-ops. Past membership in six others.

My affinity for co-ops stems from their obligation to serve their members, not a separate elite. Washington Electric Co-op serves its members well, and I am committed to seeing this continue and improve. When outages occur, WEC’s priority is to see that its members’ power is restored. It is uncertain WEC’s 11,000 rural households would be priority if served by a larger, corporate utility that also served more densely populated areas. WEC’s philosophy places high priority on preventative maintenance in an effort to avoid outages in the first place.

The need for broadband in much of WEC territory provides an opportunity for WEC to broaden the service it provides its members. The WEC Board and Staff have been deeply involved in conversations with various stakeholders to make this a reality, and I support WEC’s continued involvement in the effort to design and implement the optimal means to enable under-served and unserved WEC members to finally have the advantage of this vital 21st century technology.

Another way I would like to see WEC broaden its offerings is to facilitate establishing home-generated power for its members. At present, grid design and the political and regulatory environment are not exactly friendly to the peaceful co-existence of utility-generated, and home-generated power, especially in areas of low-population-density like WEC territory. I believe the two can co-exist to the advantage of the end-user, utility, and the environment, and we should strive to make this happen. Maintaining a clean, liveable environment, addressing climate change, and enabling energy independence are far more important than who wins the battle over energy production market share. WEC should lead the way, and evolve to meet this need.

I believe there is an abundance of brilliant thinkers in WEC territory who can help in these efforts, and the WEC board needs to increase its interactions with these resourceful individuals. Member engagement is not merely a matter of broadcasting “current” company thinking and activity via the newsletter, Co-op Currents. Member engagement means just that: engaging the members.

If one wants to escape a box, one must first dare to think outside it. It took that kind of thinking to extract WEC from its commitment to Seabrook Nuclear, and it took that kind of thinking to build Coventry. If WEC wants to continue to pioneer revolutionary, innovative, cost-effective, environmentally friendly means to keep members’ homes and businesses powered, illuminated, and connected, then WEC needs to elect individuals able to imagine bold new ideas.

Rachel Onuf

My name is Rachel Onuf and I am a Co-op member in Washington, where I have lived since 2017.  Prior to that I lived in Vershire, and before that, north central Massachusetts.  Members can contact me at P.O. Box 138, West Topsham, VT 05086, or 802-439-3043.

I have worked as an archivist for many years, both as a full-time employee and as a self-employed consultant, contract worker, and adjunct professor.  In 2005 I started a yearlong apprenticeship in organic agriculture and after “graduating,” spent several years balancing working on a school farm with archival gigs, including serving as the roving archivist for Massachusetts.

I moved to Vermont to work with the State Archivist to start the Vermont Historical Records Program (VHRP), which provides technical assistance to historical societies, museums, town clerks, and public libraries, and strives to build statewide capacity to support the staff and volunteers at these organizations.  First we needed to build the capacity of our own program, and I wrote several successful grants to transition my position from a part-time temporary to a full time position.  Another archivist has joined the VHRP and to date, we have helped nearly 100 repositories with their historical records and have supported the creation of two new organizations:  the Collections Care & Conservation Alliance (CCCA) and the Vermont Arts & Culture Disaster and Resilience Network (VACDaRN), which launched in September 2019 with a daylong educational symposium, funded in part by a grant from WEC’s Community Fund.  Current initiatives include planning a statewide digital repository to share Vermont’s rich cultural heritage more broadly.

I am on the Board of the Old Stone House Museum and Historic Village in Brownington, serving as Secretary.  That organization aligns with my professional interests, and I was inspired to get more involved to try to help the staff sustain the great momentum they are building.  Serving the Co-op is obviously less in my professional wheelhouse, but many of the skills I have developed in my decades in the workforce make me a good Board member, including collaboration, communication, listening, and learning.  An avid Co-op Currents reader, I am aware of some of the issues the Board is currently grappling with on behalf of the membership – and how complicated they are.

Some of the most important issues facing the Co-op include how to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring affordable broadband to every member that the massive influx of federal funding may make possible; how to mitigate the impact of climate change on the electrical grid in our service area and beyond; and how to keep our 100 percent renewably sourced electricity affordable for everyone.  I realize I have a great deal to learn about these topics and my perspective, at least initially, would be that of someone freshly engaging with these issues.  I would rely on veteran Board members to review the current options on the table for working with Communications Union Districts to roll out universal broadband or to point me to resources that explain the intricacies of net-metering policy.  I am eager to listen and read about these issues, and once I have grasped the basics, to begin to work with the rest of the Board and the membership as a whole to develop a path forward that aligns with our mission and will serve our members well.

JJ Vandette

JJ Vandette

My name is Joseph Vandette but everyone calls me JJ. My wife and I live on Center Road in Middlesex. I can be best reached by email:

I have been a project manager for over ten years in the energy efficiency industry, and during my tenure, I have worked closely with most of Vermont’s electric utilities to build programs that serve their customers’ and members’ energy needs. Through my day-to-day work, I am obligated to keep up with the latest energy technologies and industry trends. I also engage with Vermont’s energy regulators on a consistent basis, and I am familiar with the challenges and vast opportunities facing the electric energy industry today.

In the next few years, the American Rescue Plan Act will be in full force, and Co-op members stand to benefit from these dollars if we are ready. The rollout of broadband, as an example of a significant opportunity, stands to allow the Co-op to serve more members better and to increase our financial stability. Similarly, the advent of electrification technologies, such as cold climate heat pumps and longer-range electric vehicles, are becoming more ubiquitous.

These technological advancements can provide both members and the Co-op with a multitude of benefits—that is, if we’re thoughtful about how we embrace them. At the end of the day, my neighbors and fellow Co-op members are echoing a need for affordability and equity to be critical considerations as we embrace these impending changes to the energy industry. In summary, I would like to help the Co-op find ways to seize new opportunities and to keep energy affordability as a primary focus all the while.

I would be honored to serve as a member of WEC’s Board of Directors, and I am looking forward to the potential opportunity to collaborate with fellow WEC members and staff in this capacity. Please reach out to me if you’d like to discuss anything energy—I am passionate about the topic!