The following article has been submitted by John Stempeck, Candidate for Municipal Light Commissioner
This has been a tumultuous year for everyone, with Covid-19 upending the lives of parents, children, workers, and employers. The one constant during this pandemic has been your ability to turn on lights, stoves, and computers. I am very proud that you, the citizens of Reading, have allowed me to serve and to provide continuity on the RMLD Board these past nine years.
Our Board has driven many improvements during this time. At my very first RMLD meeting, it became clear the RMLD was in disarray, suffering from a lack of leadership (no General Manager), to an electrical distribution system stretched well beyond its useful life, with decreasing revenues to cover fixed costs. I believe competent people are the core of any organization, and so we worked to find and to hire a true utility expert in Coleen O’Brien. The Board has worked with her to rebuild the management of the RMLD as well as embedding professional requirements within the entire workforce. This did not happen overnight. It took years of effort, and change has been difficult for everyone to accept.
Our focus is on reliable power, as evidenced by your experience in every snowstorm or hot summer day, and the RMLD has won multiple national awards for reliability. We have provided low-cost electricity through careful management of our energy portfolio, and we have always been focused on finding green and renewable or carbon-free electricity generation sources. The RMLD is far ahead of the evolving MA standards.
The RMLD is a $90 million revenue business, with a unique Massachusetts charter to serve Reading, North Reading, Wilmington, and part of Lynnfield. Without our partner communities, we would not be able to achieve both economies of scale and of scope to purchase cost-effective electricity, nor offer the many energy efficiency programs for residential and commercial or industrial businesses. The RMLD provides over $2 million a year to Reading (by far the most of any utility). We have wrestled with how to maintain this funding while not dramatically increasing electricity rates. I believe we constructed an equitable solution that is tied to the consumption of electricity and was a good balance for all of our customers. This effort required that we develop a white paper on governance issues, which has been very effective in setting priorities between Reading, the RMLD, and our 20-year agreement amongst our partner communities.
I believe it is crucial to keep the RMLD apolitical, that is, to not allow anyone to use the RMLD as a political platform for the cause-of-the-day. Our focus is to keep you supplied with energy, which you can use in any manner you wish. Our charter is focused, appropriately, on reliability, cost, and environmental balance. I have tried to keep the RMLD on track through compromise of what we can afford today versus our transition to tomorrow’s more costly clean energy. This is especially important for our customers on fixed incomes and/or who have lost their jobs during Covid.
I believe I have had a significant role in all of these initiatives, which is why I am asking for your vote. My motto is simple, be constructive; don’t scream at the darkness, light a candle (or bulb).
While there have been numerous people who have transitioned the RMLD Board on their journey to other Town positions. I am not one of them. One of the few advantages of longevity is institutional knowledge, especially for a business as complex as the RMLD. With your vote, I promise to continue RMLD’s exceptional performance for you. Thank you.
About John Stempeck
John has lived in Reading with his wife Sheila for close to 50 years. All of their children graduated from Reading High School and maintain many friendships here. John has a degree in electrical engineering from MIT, an MBA from Boston University, and continues to work with manufacturing and high technology companies to develop corporate strategies. More can be found about him at avalonassociates.com, or on LinkedIn.