Meet Oakridge District Director Paula Brown
Westfir resident applies electric power industry skills in new role
By Craig Reed
With several years’ experience working in the electric power industry under her belt, Westfir resident Paula Brown decided to put some of that knowledge to use in her community.
When a position on the Lane Electric Cooperative Board of Directors for her district came open with the midterm retirement of Jerry Shorey, Paula applied. There were a few other applicants, but the board selected Paula to fill the seat on an interim basis from February 2020 to May 2021. She was then elected to a threeyear term.
“It was something I really wanted,” Paula says. “In my statement on the application on why I wanted to join the board, I said I wanted to leverage my experience to help lift up the Oakridge- Westfir community, to help revive the community as a growing concern. There’s been a lot of good seeds planted here by people that have been at it longer than me, and they’re making good progress. I want to help keep that momentum going.”
Paula says she is pleased that a key part of the co-op’s mission is to improve the quality of life for rural Americans. The 57-year-old wants to be involved in that mission. She says her objective as a board member is to help keep the co-op members and businesses in her Oakridge District informed of Lane Electric’s activities and policies.
“I want to make sure the members understand where their power comes from, how dynamic the industry is and to help them understand that they’re going to be more involved in determining how and from where their energy is going to come to them,” she says. “With the current culture around reducing carbon in our atmosphere, our traditional sources of power may be changing to renewables that will then be implemented by individual choice.”
The Pacific Northwest is fortunate to have hydropower because of its river systems. But if mandates close fossil fuel power plants in other regions, Paula says those areas will look to the Pacific Northwest for a power source.
“The clean, reliable energy we’ve enjoyed for almost a century will be more in demand and become a premium in the market,” she says. “Bonneville Power Administration has historically provided power at an inexpensive rate, but it now is at or has exceeded the market price. That’s why the industry is so dynamic for Lane Electric members.”
She says to keep rates down, it’s important to keep operational costs down and efficiency up.
Paula earned a degree in business administration and finance with a minor in economics from Portland State University in 2000. She first experienced the power industry when she took a job as a certified internal auditor and risk management assurance analyst with Bonneville Power Administration in 2008.
After five years with BPA, Paula moved to Denver and worked for Western Area Power Administration, a federal power marketing agency similar to BPA. Her next position was with Xcel Energy, an investor-owned utility with offices in Denver; Amarillo, Texas; and Minneapolis.
Paula enjoyed big city life, but missed the less hectic rural life she had known in her younger years. She moved back to Oregon in September 2019 and settled in Westfir. She now works remotely as an independent management consultant for Atum Group, a Portland-based company that provides management, scientific and technical consulting services.
Paula also is a member of Lane County’s Performance Audit Committee that oversees the county auditor’s role. It is a volunteer position.
Paula’s interest in Lane Electric Cooperative was piqued when she read an article in Ruralite about co-op board member Chris Seubert and his thoughts on the cooperative and its mission. After she was appointed to the board, she was excited to talk with Chris.
“In some ways, her experience gives her the background to ask questions,” Chris says. “Paula will make a great director as she learns the culture of what a director does and what the Lane Electric board does. I’m impressed with Paula’s ability to grasp the meaning of a report, a journal entry, a paragraph. She can find the guts—the meaning—in it and then isn’t afraid to ask a question or two.”
Paula says being a board member is a continual learning opportunity.
“Even with my years in the industry, because it is constantly changing, there’s always something to learn,” she says. “I love the utility industry because it is so interesting. You can delve into the technical aspects of how the grid works, and the dynamic production and delivery processes.”
Paula’s goal is to bring that knowledge to Lane Electric’s Oakridge District to help individuals and businesses in their personal and economic pursuits.