New Water and Light director aims for community involvement

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | 7:06 p.m. CDT
Columbia Water and Light director candidate Tad Johnsen poses for a portrait at a meet and greet reception for the public held on Friday, June 11, at City Hall.

COLUMBIA — Water supply, power supply and community development and involvement are some issues Tad Johnsen, the new Water and Light director, is looking forward to tackling.

Johnsen is scheduled to become the director of the Columbia Water and Light Department on July 11. He has lived in Columbia since 1979 and has worked in the department since 1994.


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As director, Johnsen said he would like to establish new demand response programs and find out what’s important to Columbia residents when it comes to energy efficiency.

Johnsen envisions the Water and Light Department and Columbia residents having a “working arrangement on what’s going to be a useful tool in their houses.”

He wants the public to speak up about ideas they have for increasing the energy efficiency of common household items such as thermostats, dryers or hybrid cars. “This requires a communication process with customers,” Johnsen said.

“I’d like to see a coordinated response from the city on how we address energy efficiency,” Johnsen said. He said energy projects involve not only the electric utility but also city employees involved with building codes, inspections and sustainability efforts.

“The city could be a good unified resource,” Johnsen said.

Johnsen was one of three finalists considered for the position. City Manager Bill Watkins said Johnsen stood out because of his previous experience in the department.

“(Johnsen) has experience with the utility,” Watkins said. “He can get up to speed more quickly than the other finalists.” Watkins said he has worked with Johnsen for many years and believes he has a good understanding of the community.

Watkins expects Johnsen to be a known and comfortable presence.

Given his 16 years of experience with Water and Light, Johnsen said he is familiar with both the water and the electric utilities. He said it's important that Columbia have a stable, clean supply of both resources.

Johnsen said Columbia residents can share their ideas on the department's website or by attending board meetings.

Advisory groups, boards and commissioners encourage people to become involved and give feedback,” Johnsen said.

Johnsen wants to “step in and take off running,” with the position, even though he knows mistakes are possible. “I don’t want to make any stumbles,” he said.

Johnsen is the power production superintendent at the department and said he hopes to become more familiar with the entire operation as soon as possible.

“I look forward to the opportunity to be a leading and guiding force in dealing with issues in the future,” Johnsen said. These issues include water supply planning, power supply planning, and good community involvement and feedback programs.

Johnsen attended MU and got a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1988. He is replacing Water and Light interim director Mike Schmitz.

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