Reflecting on the 2016 election

Published 10:09 am Friday, November 11, 2016

By Jeanne Sheehan

Austin Utilities Board of Commissioners

The 2016 national election has garnered so much attention in such a variety of ways that I have been wondering what effect it may have played on voters when considering decisions on the local ballot.

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As a Commissioner on the Austin Utilities board, I was originally appointed to my position by the Mayor in September of 2003.  I replaced Frank Lorenzen as he and his family had moved out of state.

Since that time, I have been on the ballot during three different elections and had the honor of being elected for a four-year term by public vote.  Each time, I have been reminded that I was elected to be a voice for the community that is served by Austin Utilities.

I certainly do not take this responsibility lightly.  I am — as are all our elected commissioners — not only board members but rate payers, as well.

My decision to want to serve the community in this capacity has grown over the years as I have learned more and more about the critical needs that we provide to our customers. The gas, water and electric services we bring to the citizens of Austin are not ones that customers consider daily.

Our board members and staff are dedicated to making these services possible for you.  In essence, to trust that our services will be available to you with little or no interruption in your personal or professional lives. We do our best to make forward-looking decisions on your behalf with the quality of your life always at the forefront.

One of our more recent and most difficult decisions was to move forward with the construction of the new Service and Operations Center in Austin’s Industrial Park. That decision reached consensus only after several years of due diligence, including talking with and listening to hundreds of customers. This large capital investment weighed heavily on our minds for many months as we reviewed many proposals.

The final decision to move ahead demonstrated the most fiscally responsible manner to position our utility to best deliver reliable service for our community well into the future.

We have replaced seven different buildings on three separate properties which we feel confident will gain you — our customers — long-term utility efficiencies.  We could not have been more pleased to share that new facility with you at our open house in early October. Many attendees commented that they did not realize how much goes into providing electric, natural gas and water services. If you happened to miss that event, we have other opportunities for you to tour our new Service and Operations Center. Public tours are being held the third Thursday of the month at either 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. or 5 to 6 p.m.  The next tour date is Nov. 17.  We invite you — we encourage you — to come and see what your elected officials and Austin Utilities staff have worked together to achieve to ensure Connections for Better Living. Please call 507-433-8886 to join the tour. (Add standard verbiage regarding AU and its mission.)