Kevin Wells retiring after 49+ years at Vera

Posted: November 29, 2022 at 10:51 am

As a Central Valley High School student, Kevin Wells started with Vera Water and Power as a part-time water meter reader in 1973, and he ended his 49-year career as general manager. His love for the job showed in every aspect of his life, from personal relationships to professional roles. Long-time Chief Financial Officer and Assistant General Manager Jim  Fields has been selected to fill Kevin’s boots.

Kevin became general manager 1992, taking over from Joe Custer, the very man who had hired him as a teenager. Kevin said that when he started at Vera people like Joe Custer and other co-workers were his teachers; they eventually became friends and then they were his family.

During his tenure, Kevin saw the Vera district grow more than four-fold; from 3,000 customers to 13,000 customers. He prioritized the importance of meeting the needs of the customers, as the community grew exponentially.

While the population in the Spokane Valley exploded, he oversaw the new construction of essential electric and water infrastructure systems to meet the growing demand. Under his leadership, the number of electric substations doubled, and the number of water wells grew by 40 percent. He will be leaving a system well-positioned to meet the needs of future customers.

Kevin embraced technology to provide the best possible customer service. He oversaw the implementation of SCADA which is the system of hardware and software elements that allow us to monitor, gather and process real-time information about our electric and water systems.

He managed complicated regulatory issues, water rights and government compliance. He was responsible for securing the lowest-priced wholesale electricity for distribution on our system. Since the cost of wholesale electricity is our single highest expense, this effort is extremely important to maintaining our low rates.

Even with all the explosive growth, complex regulatory issues and the evolution of technology, Kevin managed to keep customer prices low while securing Vera’s financial position in a way that puts the District in its best financial shape in its history.

Most importantly, Kevin created a culture of safety for employees, the community, and the general public. He implemented the District’s accident prevention policy which is now 52 pages long. In fact, he started the District’s safety committee and the safety committee chair.

Wells said he realized years ago that he would want to retire around the age of 65 and began preparing Jim to take over the role.

The board of directors did a national search to look for Kevin’s replacement but ultimately selected Jim for the position, allowing him to step seamlessly into the role he’s been training for.

Jim has been the assistant general manager since 2008 and since then has been tutored in the needs of the general manager position by Wells. “Kevin has worked closely with me to prepare me for this position,” he said.

Jim said he believes the board of directors chose him after a national search because they valued the continuity he would bring to the job. He said he’s committed to continuing to provide the low rates and reliable service that Vera is known for. “I think the customers want a continued legacy,” he said. “If we can do this seamlessly for the customers, we’re going to be a success.”

Kevin will leave behind a staff of about 40 people, all but two of whom he hired. He said they’ll continue to provide excellent service to the public after he leaves. “It’s always been my privilege to work for them (the customers),” he said. “The reason we exist is to serve them. These guys, they understand that.”