Meet the People of Your Local PUD
By Rodger Nichols
Many career paths lead people to Northern Wasco County PUD. Kara Salazar’s path came through health care.
A Hood River native, Kara started working at a medical office when she was 18. That was followed by 13 years at Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles, primarily in human resources, and three years at Klickitat Valley Health in Goldendale.
She learned about the opening for a human resources generalist at the PUD through a human resources collaborative group.
“There are not a lot of HR jobs out there,” Kara says. “It’s been a really challenging time in health care and even more so with the pandemic. I love HR. It’s my passion. I thought it was time for something new, so utility industry it is.”
Kara joined the PUD in February. She has not met everyone yet because many PUD employees are working remotely.
“The people I have met, I’ve been incredibly impressed with,” she says. “This organization as a whole has been really great.”
Kara has noticed a few differences between health care and the electric utility business.
“There’s definitely more rules and regulations in health care HR,” she says, “but there’s certainly a lot to learn about the utility industry as well. I’m excited to learn about all of it.
“I’m a firm believer that if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not learning. So, I’m very uncomfortable right now, which is a good thing. I think that’s an indication that I’m learning and growing, and that’s important to me in my career.”
Kara’s job fits into a busy lifestyle. She and her husband, Robert, celebrate 20 years of marriage in August. They have five children: Alena, Lilia, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Jesiah. In early June, Lilia graduated from high school, and Alena graduated from Linfield College and was expecting her first child.
The family loves the outdoors and enjoys exploring the Gorge.
“We’re waterfall chasers,” Kara says. “Anywhere there’s water, we’ll go.”
Cooking is also a passion.
“With five kids—and three of them being teenagers—I have to cook for an army,” Kara says. “I have to say, I’m really good at a lot of things, but my barbecued chicken is it.”
Kara has lots of praise for the utility.
“I think it comes from the top down,” she says. “Roger Kline sets the stage. It’s really impressive how quickly they’ve adapted to the pandemic—having everybody work remotely and doing that successfully. There’s strong support for healthy work-life balances, which is really important, especially with the pandemic going on.”
Saria Allen grew up in Condon. After graduating from high school, she traveled around Oregon, Washington and California before moving to The Dalles with husband Andrew and daughter Shaylee in 2007.
She is now an IT technician at the PUD.
Saria attended Columbia Gorge Community College and received her associate degree in business management. She is working toward her bachelor’s degree from Eastern Oregon University.
After graduating from CGCC, Saria was a technician with local internet provider Skylink Fiber.
“I was supposed to be the administrative assistant, scheduling for installations and technical support,” she says. “But I ended up doing tech support, sales, collection calls and pretty much everything else.” Prior to joining the PUD, Saria worked for Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc.
“The culture there has changed a lot over the last year and a half, and I was looking for something more permanent,” Saria says. “I wanted to find an organization that I could retire with. I like that family culture, which the PUD definitely has.”
Saria’s job involves a lot of time at the help desk and using her administrative background to help with various projects.
She says working for the PUD reminds her of growing up in Condon.
“You have that family feel within the town,” she says. “When something happens, we all feel it. To find a place to work that has that same feeling is amazing.”
When not working at the PUD, Saria loves to camp.
“I camp whenever possible,” she says. “We go on at least two big trips each year. I have a rafting trip on the John Day coming soon.”