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Term: Six Years
Board Size: eight
Candidates: Jim Begley, Dave Friend, John McCollister, Megan Murphy (top two vote-getters are elected)

Why you should care:

- You use water and natural gas everyday, right? MUD is the sole source from which you can buy it. They set the price, and you don’t have a choice. Kind of a big deal.

- MUD is working with the City of Omaha and other entities (OPPD, Cox Communications, etc) on a massive sewer separation as mandated by the EPA. It’s big, complicated and expensive; mismanagement would be a serious problem.

- The Board creates and approves regulatory rules for MUD, approves the budget and major expenditures, employee hiring, terminations and contracts; sets wage and benefit packages for all non-union personnel.

Who you should vote for:

John McCollister

Yup, we were surprised by this one, too. While we may not perfectly agree with Mr. McCollister on several other issues, he is well-suited to serve on the MUD board. Throughout the course of our interview we found him to be extremely knowledgeable of the issues, thoughtful and analytical in his decision-making approach, and supportive of MUD’s conservation-focused activities.

MUD is facing a challenging trend wherein their volumes (sales) are flat but their expenses continue to climb. This trend presents a significant challenge for MUD’s board and management. Mr. McCollister indicated he’s in favor of a balanced approach to combat this issue, which is to say he believes a flat fee is appropriate for creating more revenue while cost cutting must still be a focus. As for which costs to cut, he specifically mentioned employee fringe benefits and the health insurance plan as likely targets.

We also agreed with Mr. McCollister’s positions on conservation (current efforts are worthwhile and should continue if not expand; reduce carbon footprint), and compressed natural gas (MUD should continue to invest in infrastructure and public/private partnerships).

Jim Begley

Mr. Begley will provide an important and new perspective to the board. His focus on protecting the interests of MUD’s workforce was unique amongst his challengers and will serve MUD’s interests well.

He has never served on the MUD board but was adequately knowledgeable of the issues. He was particularly keen on expanding MUD’s social media presence (basically nonexistent today) in order to better communicate with customers; an approach we completely agree with. Mr. Begley also foresees a clear and meaningful role for MUD in developing a compressed natural gas market, and he passionately advocated for the utility to help its customers conserve water and natural gas consumption.

Mr. Begley also advocated for a balanced approach to fixing MUD’s budget challenges, although he foresees different mechanisms by which increase revenue (rate increases) and decrease costs (some upper-level management positions might be worth eliminating).