2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha, Subdivision 4

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

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Candidates

Tim Cavanaugh (R):
Occupation: Chief Deputy Treasurer/Retired Omaha Police Captain (25+ years)
Current Public Office, dates held: MUD Board of Directors, 1999-now. Three-time Chairman.
Past Public Office, dates held: above
Education: Ryan High School UNO, C.J/Business Administration Creighton Law School, 1979-80 University of Nebraska Graduate School, MS, C.J./Public Admin Graduate, FBI National Academy
Military Experience: Regretfully, none.
Volunteer Experience: Rotary Club of Omaha, 17 years, past president and Rotary Foundation Board. Paul Harris Fellow, 3 times.

Tom Wurtz (NP):
Occupation: Retired past President MUD
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: BA UNL 1971. Juris Doctorate UNL 1974.
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Knights of Columbus St. Wenceslaus Church. Challenger Alumni Softball (coach) President’s Advisory Council UNL. Catholic Charities Board of Directors. Urban League Board of Directors. Governor’s Water Policy Council. State Energy Policy Council.

Candidate Responses

What factors would you consider when determining rates and rate changes?

Tim Cavanaugh: Number 1 is the abilty for our ratepayer-owners to afford our services. Safety is a major concern, as well as the delivery of clean water and safe gas transmission.

Tom Wurtz: The first duty of a board member is to ensure the district has sufficient revenues to deliver water and natural gas safely to our customers with reasonable rates. I would consider all customer classifications (residential, commercial and manufacturing) to determine if all are treated fairly. We need to retain competent managers and employees, who have an understanding of the complexities involved in the delivery of gas and water to the public. I would also consider the level of customer service.

What are the opportunities to improve efficiency for MUD?

Tim Cavanaugh: I challenged the staff to work toward a two-hour appointment window for service when we implemented GPS on service trucks which allowed for more efficient deployment of service trucks. Also, I pressed for the implementation of online payments. I am very proud of our high bond rating and the high level of funding of the employee’s pension fund.

Tom Wurtz: The most important opportunity for efficiency is to ensure that the district remains a public utility with local control and ownership by our customers. Privatization would result in an immediate 25% increase in rates. More of our construction and field service personnel should report directly to job sites rather than district facilities in order to increase efficiency. Also the district should conduct a study to search for duplication of functions and continue discounted natural gas purchases.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Tim Cavanaugh: Ramp up the progress toward water infrastructure replacement within an affordable rate structure.

Tom Wurtz: I will make all committee meetings open to the public. I will solve the water pressure problems in west Omaha, particularly in sub district 4. We need to provide better customer service for our customer owners. We need a comprehensive study of our rate structure to make sure we have an appropriate balance between monthly service charges and commodity costs. We need to conduct a comprehensive study of safety and security programs with emphasis on cyber security.

What effort would you make to meet the goal of increasing the use of renewable energy?

Tim Cavanaugh: MUD delivers natural gas and water. The exploration of methane gas sources (garbage dumpsites) may be worthwhile.

Tom Wurtz: Although natural gas is not technically a renewable fuel source, it is 98% clean burning and better for the environment than other fuels. I will continue to encourage the utilization of natural gas and CNG in cars and trucks. This will reduce our carbon footprint. As past president of MUD, I instituted a program to convert the electrical power source for our regulator stations to solar energy. I would explore the possibilities of converting as much of the electrical usage to solar power.

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