Welcome to the PUD
Northern Wasco County PUD has a new chief operations officer and a new board member
By Rodger Nichols
New Chief Operations Officer Jeff Teel
Jeff Teel says he’s found the perfect job at the perfect time in his life. His background and training are well-suited to his new position as chief operations officer at Northern Wasco County PUD (NWCPUD).
Although born in Northern California, Jeff grew up in McMinnville and went to high school there. He got some college experience at Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma, Washington, and at Oregon State University, where he met his wife, Lisa.
But Jeff felt he needed some discipline and order in his life, and joined the Navy in the early 1990s. He was assigned as a nuclear field electrician’s mate on nuclear submarines.
“That involves a lot of education on power and electric control systems and operation of a power plant,” Jeff says.
He left the Navy in 1998 and went to work for General Electric. He worked as a field engineer, primarily helping design and commission power and control systems for industry and utilities.
Jeff worked at GE until his children “needed a dad around to go to the soccer games and be more involved,” he says.
That change led him to a job at Eugene Water and Electric Board. His duties there increasingly revolved around the software systems that monitor and control things, particularly EWEB’s four hydroelectric plants, one of them on the McKenzie River 70 miles from Eugene.
“My true love is hydroelectric power,” Jeff says. “Hydropower is about as clean as you can get it and about as plentiful as you can get it. We have the cleanest power in the country.”
Jeff calls himself a very driven person.
“I was really ready for more of a challenge than what I was getting at EWEB,” he says. “I left to go work for OS Engineering, a consulting engineering firm. It’s super rewarding work. As a consultant, you’re getting to bypass all the bureaucracy.”
OS saw Jeff had leadership potential and promoted him accordingly.
“I like to get a lot done, and you can get a lot more done when you’re leading a team of people,” Jeff says. “People are much more important to me than gadgets and gizmos.”
Jeff found the work rewarding, but says with hard deadlines and strict budgets, “it kind of wears on you over time.” He was looking to get back into public power and joined NWCPUD a few months ago.
“I work with fantastic salt-of-the-earth people who are really good at their jobs,” he says. “That’s the thing also about public power: It attracts quality people because we all share that same vision of wanting to provide something essential at a good value to the customers, without trying to line our pockets. We have a great team of people with a lot of fun, challenging projects coming up. Being part of that is super exciting.”
Jeff and Lisa are empty nesters with children grown and gone. When not working, the couple enjoys walking, riding motorcycles, and reading.
New Board Member Greg Johnson
Greg Johnson is the newest member of the Northern Wasco County PUD Board of Directors. His family has deep roots in The Dalles, settling in the area in 1862.
Greg was born in Portland and grew up in the Seattle area, but from seventh grade through college spent summers working on his grandfather’s farm on Three Mile.
After graduating from Washington State University with a degree in general agriculture in 1985, Greg moved to The Dalles and started farming. In 1989, he married his wife, Kim, and they started buying the farm.
Renken Farms was primarily a cherry operation but was best known in the local community for its annual pumpkin patch.
“It’s getting harder to be a cherry farmer anymore,” Greg says. “We leased out the orchard, and I converted to a new career.”
That was in 2015. Greg went back to school, and in 2019 earned his master’s degree in elementary education. Since then, he has taught middle school science at St. Mary’s Academy.
That doesn’t mean he’s given up agriculture completely.
“We’re still on the property, and we still have animals,” he says. “We have a herd of dairy goats that we show around the Northwest.”
Greg is a good fit for the PUD board, with previous experience on the board of directors of the Oregon Cherry Growers and the American Youth Soccer Organization. He was actively involved with the Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission, the Wasco County Farm Bureau, the Oregon Farm Bureau, and the American Farm Bureau.
Greg coached soccer for many years for AYSO and was the girls’ varsity coach at The Dalles High School.
How did he decide to run for the PUD board?
“My neighbor, Dan Williams, who was on the PUD board for many years, popped down to my house about a year ago and said, ‘I’m not running next year; you need to,’” Greg says. “Dan worked for me for many years during harvest, and we’ve talked often about PUD stuff that he was dealing with. He knew that I had a little bit of an interest.”
Greg says he used a lot of electricity at the farm.
“And I’m the last person in PUD’s line out Three Mile, so when things come to a head, sometimes they end up coming to a head at my place,” he says.
In preparing for his run, Greg started attending PUD meetings.
“I decided that this was a good opportunity to have some input into what the PUD is doing and how they grow,” he says. “It’s an interesting time, with some big decisions probably coming down the road. I like being on the management side of it—not just being a consumer, but also helping to set policy and direction.”