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The State of Your Utility

March 14, 2023 Jen Connors, EWEB Communications

General Manage Frank Lawson and a pull quote from the state of utility address

In his annual message to the Board of Commissioners, the public and EWEB workforce, EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson emphasized his appreciation for staff, highlighted many of the utility's accomplishments, and focused on what it takes for EWEB to meet our on-going, perpetual obligation to serve our community. 

Lawson delivered his address at the March 7 public Board of Commissioners meeting. 

You can listen to the address above (8-minute listen) or read the speech below.

2023 State of the Utility Address

President Carlson, Commissioners, EWEB staff, members of the public, I appreciate this annual opportunity to take a step back and give you some perspective on EWEB’s organizational performance, our results, our challenges, and our opportunities. I also appreciate the opportunity to thank you, Commissioners, for your leadership, and to thank staff for their leadership, hard work, and accomplishments throughout the year.

EWEB has an obligation to serve our community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That obligation doesn’t end tomorrow, next week, or ten years from now. It is perpetual. And it’s forever.  I reinforce this ongoing obligation because it’s often easy to see the immediate--the here and now, the work on we do on pipes, pumps, tanks, water treatment, poles, wires, transformers, generators, answering customer calls or emails. That work is critical to achieving our mission. But it’s more difficult to see the efforts that support that work--purchasing, finance, information systems, security, workforce support, power purchasing, support services, field services, building and renovations, customer solutions. The list goes on.

It’s even more challenging to appreciate the work that ensures we meet our ongoing obligation in the future. We invest in the watershed, offer a multitude of customer programs, manage $1.3 billion worth of assets, and meticulously plan for and performance and analysis that’s needed in all areas of the organization for that ongoing purpose.

It is a significant part of our job to ensure that we can continue to meet our mission and adhere to our values over the long haul. By definition our strategic work should support the development of sustainable community benefits. Therefore, we plan and execute work that positions the organization to meet future challenges and opportunities safely, reliably, environmentally, and affordably all while recognizing the importance of community and organizational culture. 

2022 was an incredibly productive year for EWEB, as we achieved virtually all of our primary annual goals along with many additional accomplishments. Because of people, we were able to keep the flow--the flow of electricity, water, money, information, collaboration, and ideas. 

Despite experiencing many of the same challenges appearing across our society, including supply chain limitations (especially in raw materials or technology-centric parts and contracting), inflationary pressures, workforce scarcity in selected fields, cyber and physical security threats and challenges, polarizing social viewpoints, EWEB is a strong organization 

1.     Both the water and electric utilities continue to be in good financial positions.

2.     We pay attention to, and prioritize safety and reliability, and had one our statisically safest years in the past two decades.

3.     A team from the IBEW, union stewards, and EWEB management reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement to guide our relationship over the next several years.

4.     We are good stewards of the environment, considering both the impacts of the environment on our products and services and our impacts on environment.

5.     On significant or impactful decisions, we analyzed the alternatives from a triple bottom line perspective, as exemplified in the decision to develop a plan to decommission the Leaburg hydroelectric project.

6.     We expanded our Lead Green program.

7.     An EWEB team worked through a robust process to select SAP for Utilities as the basis for our information systems technology platform going forward. When you process millions of transactions, including the processing of over 1.3 million bills alone each year, information systems are fundamental pieces of continuing to fulfill our organizational objectives.

8.     EWEB’s public outreach in 2022 was significant and outstanding, led by our communications team who were instrumental in projects like the E. 40th reservoir, Integrated Resource Planning, headquarters sale, and countless other projects and programs from emergency preparedness to new Lead Green products.

9.     Finally, we don’t rest on our laurels. In 2022 hundreds of employees participated in continuous improvement projects, improvement being a key ingredient in many of the transitions the organization is driving or facing, inside and outside of the organization.

So, EWEB had a great year. But, once again, the work is perpetual.

What still needs work? All of it. 

Particularly, we need to continue to cultivate an environment that is inclusive, insuring we are equitable in our approaches and outcomes, and that we demonstrate our respect for diverse perspectives.  As more of our processes and technology get modernized, we need to improve our cross-departmental and leadership communications on basis of decisions and direction. And, recognizing that we will continue to experience upward pricing pressures, we need to be good stewards of our customers’ money, making investments that support our continuing mission.

Before I dive into the operational and strategic results I’d like once again to thank you, Commissioners, for your leadership and guidance, the EWEB workforce for each of their own contributions to our ongoing mission and for their collaboration and teamwork, our local industry partners like Lane County and the City of Eugene, our suppliers and contractors, and finally those citizens that provide us with constructive ideas, perspectives, and feedback. In a world that seems so polarizing, it’s rewarding and encouraging to see and witness people who, while they celebrate their differences, are respectful to each other and work together toward a common goal.  

It’s not just WHAT we accomplish that matters, it’s HOW we get it done that’s equally important.

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City of Eugene residents elect five commissioners to four-year terms to form the EWEB Board of Commissioners. The elected Board is responsible for overall governance of the utility.