No sitting down on the job for Chelan PUD's most senior employee

by Kimberlee Craig | Nov 18, 2019

Materials foreman Terry McFadden discovered the secret to his long Chelan PUD career years ago: “I knew I needed to find a job that wasn’t sitting down,” McFadden said.  

That was in the late 1970s, and he still logs thousands of steps in the PUD’s Wenatchee warehouse every day. On Monday, Chelan PUD commissioners recognized McFadden as the utility’s longest-tenured, continuously-serving employee at 43.3 years.

On Oct. 25, he surpassed the mark set by an early PUD employee, a former Puget Sound Power and Light worker who was brought on when the District took over Puget’s local system in 1948. (At 00:08 on the board meeting recording.)

“I like working, I like people, I like staying engaged, and I don’t like sitting down,” McFadden, 68, said last week. “In this job, I’m standing all day, I get to see people, and I get to have some fun while I’m doing it.”

Commissioners applauded the milestone and presented McFadden a certificate marking the accomplishment. 

McFadden and his supervisor, Randall Phillips, materials superintendent, started talking about the goal in 2015. The idea piqued McFadden’s competitive streak, plus his District pride. He wanted a public power employee’s name in the top spot.

“I know someone will beat me in the future, but I’ll always be the first,” he said.

There’s no doubt in McFadden’s mind that Chelan PUD is a great place to work. It took him three years to get hired on Aug. 2, 1976, when he left college to support his young family. He started as one of two meter readers. After moving into the office, it wasn’t long before he was looking to stretch his legs again.

As the PUD grew, he helped set up and then staffed warehouses across the county, including the one used for construction of the second powerhouse at Rock Island Dam.

By the mid-1990s he was back in Wenatchee, promoted to foreman and enjoying the challenge of learning new software and practices. Recovery after surgery to remove a benign brain tumor in 2013 has been the only thing to keep him away from work.

Retirement is on the horizon, but it will be a few years until he joins his wife, Ceceilia, in the leisure life. Right now he’s focused on working hard and, on his off-hours, finishing his business degree at Central Washington University, with just 15 credits to go.

“I’m anxious to complete what I started so many years ago,” McFadden said. “I thank Chelan PUD often for supporting my adventure.”

In other business, commissioners:

  • Received an update on the draft 2020 budget. Staff reported that the timing of   capital investments in hydro units and support facilities at Rock Island Dam will increase next year’s spending. Updates also put the budgeted positive bottom line at the end of 2020 at $58.1 million, up about $800,000 from the draft discussed on Nov. 4. Overall, significant work planned at the dams puts the forecast total spending at about 10 percent more the 2019 budget. Staff will ask commissioners for final action on the 2020 budget at the Dec. 2 meeting (02:00)
  • Heard from General Manager Steve Wright who shared high praise for the PUD’s work to improve grid reliability. A letter from the Western Electric Coordinating Council noted the PUD’s high mark on a recent audit: “…Chelan is leading the (Western) interconnection in its approach to operations and its pursuit of continuous improvement.” Wright said it was a powerful statement. “One of our goals is to be a great utility and this is evidence that in one way we are succeeding.” WECC promotes electric system reliability across the West and is the regional entity responsible for compliance monitoring and enforcement. (02:27)
  • Honored the ownership taken and quick thinking of Edrie Risdon, environmental permit coordinator, in resolving a stalemate with a regulatory agency over a permit needed for maintenance at Tumwater Dam. During a meeting she assessed the agency’s concerns and proposed a compromise that resulted in on-the-spot approval of the permit. (00:05)  
  • Reviewed proposed state-required targets for savings from PUD investments in cost-effective energy efficiency programs. Andrew Grassell, energy development/conservation manager, said 19+ megawatts were saved since 2010 – enough to power some 8,000 Chelan County homes. Commissioners will set a new two-year target and 10-year plan following a hearing at the Dec. 2 board meeting. The PUD plans to exceed the compliance target of 2.82 average megawatts for 2020-2021 by shooting for acquiring 4 aMW in the next two years and set a 10-year plan for savings of 15.2 aMW through 2030. (01:04

Upcoming events:

  • Nov. 28 – Thanksgiving, PUD offices closed
  • Dec. 2 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m.
  • Dec. 16 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m.
  • Dec. 20 – Fiesta Decembrina, 8 a.m., Pybus Public Market

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The next regular PUD commission meeting is at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 2, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave. 

Chelan PUD records most commission meetings, and a link to the audio is available on the PUD’s home page at Find us at and follow us on Twitter @ChelanPUD.

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