Meet Your PUD Board

Roger Howe and Connie Karp Are Two of Northern Wasco County PUD’s Five Directors

By Rodger Nichols

Roger Howe

Roger Howe was elected to the Northern Wasco County PUD Board of Directors in 2016. Photos courtesy of NWCPUD

Sometimes a simple suggestion at the right time can change a person’s life. That’s what happened to Northern Wasco County PUD board member Roger Howe.

Born and raised locally, Roger started his career as a counselor at the former School District 9.

“I thought I wanted to go into administration and to do that I had to have a master’s degree,” Roger says. “I went back to school and my dad said, ‘Look, you want to be in administration, that’s business, and there’s a business opportunity at Kargl, Elwood, and Geiger.’ In 1975, I threw my hat in the ring.”

For 42 years, Roger worked on the insurance side of the real estate business. He specialized in property and casualty insurance, which includes home, car, and farm insurance, personal property, and liability.

“Most of all, I liked solving problems and that’s what I focused on,” he says. “I got a lot of different degrees to do stuff that the normal guy could not. I’d work with contracts, leases, and attorneys, and it was fun.”

Roger remembers the January 1996 flood that devastated Baldwin Saloon. Owners Mark and Tracy Linebarger were hit hard, with big expenses and no money coming in. The couple owed Kargl, Elwood, and Geiger several hundred dollars.

Roger went to John Geiger, one of the company’s partners.

“I said, ‘You know, everybody’s been helping them. Why don’t we handle their insurance premium this year?’” Roger says. “The only way we could do it legally was if we paid it out of our own pockets.

“When I brought the invoice over to Tracy, I said, ‘I have something for you.’ She looked at the ground, and I said, ‘Yeah, I know, but you might want to look at it because it says paid in full.’ The tears came down, and that was my best day in insurance.”

To fill his leisure time, Roger joined the search and rescue team in Wasco County for 15 years. He was part of Klickitat County Search and Rescue for five years. At 65, he recertified as an emergency medical technician and worked with Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue for four years.

Former PUD board member Dan Williams suggested to Roger that he would be bored when he retired and could keep using his brain by joining the PUD board.

“I was used to donating to the community,” Roger says. “To me, it was just another way of giving my time and effort and what little expertise I had back to the community.”

Roger says he was surprised at how “incredibly complicated” the PUD operation is. He has high praise for the staff, particularly Manager Roger Kline.

“I was impressed with him before I was a director,” he says. “Now that I’ve been there five years, I’m even more impressed. He’s planning 10 years ahead, and as a result, we have a rock-solid utility.”

Connie Karp

Connie Karp was appointed to the NWCPUD board in 2016 and elected to her position in 2018.

Board member Connie Karp has lived in Oregon since her parents moved from Nebraska to Portland when she was 3. She and her husband, Paul, worked for the post office in Portland and transferred to The Dalles in 1983.

Connie drove some of the rural routes

and struggled during years of heavy snow. That led her to a part-time job with the school district before she decided to get into banking. After a few years with Security Pacific, she moved on.

“I found my niche working at Columbia River Bank,” Connie says. “They were very good people, and the company really grew.”

Working in the human resources department, Connie saw that growth firsthand.

“When I started, there were probably 40 employees,” she says. “When I left, there were 400 employees. It was a wonderful experience. I learned so much, and as we grew there were so many opportunities.”

She speaks highly of Columbia River Bank President Terry Cochran, who was there during her tenure.

Several years ago, an NWCPUD director contacted Connie about a board opening coming up in her district.

“I didn’t know a lot about the PUD,” Connie says, “other than when I worked at Columbia River Bank, we lost a few employees to the PUD. I read their history and it definitely resonated with me. I said to my husband, ‘This is a wonderful story, the little utility against the big companies. I think this would be interesting.’”

Connie was appointed in December 2016 and won her election in 2018.

Connie has served on other organizations’ boards but says the PUD experience has been far more in-depth.

“NWCPUD is run by a very knowledgeable and caring group of people,” she says. “Staff, along with the board, work together to bring public power to our customers at a good value. The board has to make some hard decisions sometimes, but I have found my time serving on the PUD board quite rewarding.”

Connie had a bit of a head start appreciating her surroundings.

“I grew up in Portland,” she says, “and when people came to visit, most were from the Midwest. My parents would load them up in the car, and we always went to Bonneville Dam. The dam was such an amazing sight for them. I’ve come to really appreciate the dams and what we have in the Northwest.”