One of the great things about working for MMUA is the opportunity to get around the state a little bit and visit the different utilities and the people that operate them.

One of the destinations Nov. 3 was Spring Valley Public Utilities.  The beauty of the day was exceeded only by the area I was in. Something struck me during this visit that I think is emblematic of municipal utilities.

I was visiting with Stuart Smith, longtime superintendent/operations manager. Smith was born in Spring Valley. A big project is in the works to upgrade the distribution system voltage. He mentioned that the utility has done everything possible to keep rates down, but that some things just needed to be done. 

Smith might have been able to ride out the rest of his career without undertaking the project. But that wouldn’t have been good for the utility or its customers. What became evident during the conversation was that Smith was intent on seeing the project completed, but perhaps more interested in shepherding the utility through the necessary rate increases to pay for it.

Rate increases can bring out the worst in some people. If somebody is going to vent their ire, a utility manager may be a likely target. Smith isn’t going to push that off on somebody else. He (and his local commission) is going to make sure the necessary work is done, and deal with the fallout.

That is the type of selfless behavior that is regularly displayed by municipal utility people, and one of the things that makes it such a privilege to work for them.