Going through some old boxes this summer, Ray Taylor discovered a check he wrote on July 27, 1957 to Chelan County Public Utilities District #1. The amount was for $1.80 – the cost of electricity for two months.
Taylor has been a Chelan County PUD customer-owner for 66 years, first as a newly wed when he and his wife Betty Lee rented their first apartment together, and then as treasurer of his church, First Baptist, as it built a new facility on Maple Street in Wenatchee.
Ray was working at the National Bank of Commerce when Chelan County PUD leadership walked in to buy Rock Island dam from Puget Sound Energy. The bank buzzed with excitement as executives flew in from New York to arrange the financing.
A decade later, Ray and Betty Lee took their kids to the dedication of Rocky Reach in 1963. He still remembers the tours, festive food and high school band.
“One of the best things we’ve ever done in this county was to purchase the dams for ourselves, so the benefits would stay in the community,” he said.
As we celebrate Public Power Week, Oct. 4-10, we want to honor our heritage as a nonprofit, community-owned utility. Your history is our history.
We look back with gratitude to a generation of community leaders who saw the value in public power. Imagine the courage it took for a small, rural county to build, buy and operate three hydropower projects in the 1950s.
That investment now produces five-to-six times the amount of energy we need to serve our 50,000 customer-owners. The surplus power is sold on the power market. The proceeds are reinvested back into Chelan County to improve the quality of life.
Thanks to those founding leaders, residents of Chelan County enjoy clean, reliable energy, with some of the lowest rates in the nation, as well as high-speed internet and quality parks and trails.
Ray Taylor went on to lead Chelan County Medical Services Corporation, the first nonprofit in the area to offer prepaid medical plans. When it sold to Blue Cross for $2.1 million in the 1980s, he used the money to establish the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. That endowment has grown into $65 million in assets – another example of an investment into the community that will pay dividends for generations to come.
During Public Power Week, we plan to feature more long-tenured customer-owners of Chelan County PUD. If you have a story to share, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 661-4320.
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