CFP District 5 . . . Kalispell doctor and retired executive face off for PSC District 5 seat |

Voters in Public Service Commission District 5 face clear choices of experience and philosophy between candidates vying for a spot on the body that oversees the rates most Montana households pay for electricity. ‘energy.

Facing each other in the district that stretches from Helena to the Canadian border are Republican Annie Bukacek, a Kalispell doctor who has made the news as an anti-vaccine activist, and Whitefish Democrat John Repke, a Recently retired executive with experience in the petroleum, waste management and wood products industries.

The other PSC seat up for election this year is in District 1, where Sun River Republican and former lawmaker Randy Pinocci is running unopposed.

The contest of the year comes amid the PSC’s decision last month to allow NorthWestern Energy to charge subscribers nearly $92 million more for natural gas and the election. That’s less than the $120 million originally sought by the utility that serves about two-thirds of Montana households.

Bukacek is a first-time candidate for state office, but she is not new to public life. She served on the Flathead City-County Board of Health from January 2020 until March, when she stepped down to focus on PSC racing. She won a four-vote primary in June, beating veteran Whitefish lawmaker Derek Skees by 87 votes.

John Repke of Whitefish, a retired businessman, is the Democratic candidate for District 5 of the PSC.

It was during her tenure on the health board that she made local and national headlines, sparking both criticism and support for questioning the value of COVID-19 vaccines and the national tally. deaths due to the pandemic.

Bukacek is a board certified internal medicine physician and has his own Kalispell practice, Hosanna Health Care. She has been a doctor in Montana for over 30 years.

She is a member of the Legislative Committee of the Montana Medical Association and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

She has served as President of the Montana Prolife Coalition since 2008 and is a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

She declined to be interviewed for this article and referred questions to her campaign website.

On it, she writes that she will work to keep the energy of Montana independent, as much as possible. She also writes that she will oppose efforts “to remove access to Montana’s coal and hydroelectric power sources.”


Flathead City-County Health Board member Dr. Annie Bukacek stands with students, parents and others gathered outside Flathead High School to protest the Kalispell School District’s face mask requirement on March 9 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | flathead beacon

She discusses these ideas in more detail in a website video, arguing that renewable energy from wind and solar sources is unreliable, requires hydrocarbons to make, and threatens birds and bats. She also said they produce waste that can be toxic and difficult to recycle.

Another of her goals, she wrote, is to place the state’s water compact management boards under the jurisdiction of the PSC. These compacts are government-to-government agreements, such as the compact between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the State of Montana, and the federal government on water use in the Flathead Basin.

Other goals, she writes, include amplifying the PSC’s communication with the public, improving its engagement with legislators, and assisting them in developing legislation and testifying on PSC issues.

Much of the PSC’s job involves sifting through detailed requests for rate increases, and Bukacek writes that his decades of managing his patients’ health care, which can sometimes mean making life-and-death decisions, and her medical practice qualify her for the position.

“Applying my character and value system to work (at) PSC, I will do my research, apply my proven problem-solving abilities, and not be beholden to particular environmental or monopoly interests in the push for Montana’s energy independence. ,” she writes.

It also pledges to “apply free market principles to the regulation of utility monopolies”.

Meanwhile, his opponent said his experience overseeing a waste management company and his master’s degree in business administration give him an edge in this race – and even over former commissioners.

“Almost all of my duties involved setting fair rates for the companies and the people who pay them,” Repke said in an interview. “Apart from that, I have experience in budget analysis, cost analysis and rate of return. These are all things the PSC should have some expertise in, and I’m not sure they do.

After graduating from Ohio State University, Repke moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he worked in the oil industry. He transferred to Gillette, Wyoming, and worked as a materials man for a field near Savageton. After a few years, he and his wife, Beth, moved to Denver where he earned a master’s degree in business administration and worked in accounting for a few small producers.

He then went to work for Waste Management in Illinois for 13 years, rising from financial and planning analyst to senior director of financial services. In 1999, he became Chief Financial Officer of an international supply chain partner of McDonald’s. Ten years later, he returned to the environmental services industry as Chief Financial Officer of Veolia North America.

He and Beth moved to Whitefish in 2014. He has taught business courses at Flathead Valley Community College, Economic Development for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and the Lake County Community Development Corporation. He has also volunteered with Montana West Economic Development. In 2018, he returned to full-time work as CFO at SmartLam LLC in Columbia Falls. He retired in 2021.

Repke said he hoped to bring greater objectivity to the commission’s decisions.

“All I promise is that I will engage in a thorough and comprehensive analysis, make my decisions, and vote in a way that I believe is best for taxpayers,” he said. he declared. “Presenting partisan projects or baggage in the post would be totally inappropriate. A Public Service Commissioner must work to strike the perfect balance between energy companies and taxpayers, and that is what I intend to do with the PSC.

Republicans have controlled all five seats on the commission since 2013, although the PSC has a reputation for fighting. The commissioners, who are paid $112,000 a year, have at times drawn fire from critics who say some members take on too much outside work.

Repke said many of the PSC’s struggles over the years stem from a lack of experience running businesses.

“There has been quite a long list of unethical and unprofessional behavior on the commission, and so the solution is quite simple: act with a level of integrity and bring hard-earned knowledge to the position,” a- he declared. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask of a civil servant.”

The District 5 seat is held by former President Brad Johnson of Helena, who is restricted by law from running for another consecutive term. Current PSC Chairman James Brown of Helena is a candidate for the Supreme Court of Montana.

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