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John Nguyen to retire before PERS changes inacted but will be rehired for additional year

PMG FILE PHOTO - John Nguyen, CRPUD's general manager, speaks at a meeting in 2015. The Columbia River People's Utility District's board of directors has approved a one-year rehire for John Nguyen, the CRPUD general manager.

Nguyen announced plans to retire earlier this year in anticipation of changes that will be made to the state's Public Employee Retirement System, PERS, as of Jan. 1.

At the board meeting Aug. 13, CRPUD employees attested to Nguyen's accomplishments and urged the board to keep him on staff.

Nguyen plans to retire Nov. 30. He had offered to be rehired by the PUD for two years starting Dec. 1. At the board meeting in July, there was a discussion about hiring Nguyen for a six-month term, meeting minutes show. Nguyen declined a six-month rehire, explaining that six months wouldn't do much to ease the transition.

With a number of changes coming to the PUD, including a significant restructuring of pay rates (see new briefs, Page A8), staff members told the board that the utility needed the stability of Nguyen's continued employment to avoid disruption or the appearance of turmoil, particularly in a utility district with a history of disorder in the general manager position.

Other major projects that Nguyen will see through include the new enterprise system conversion and the construction of the PUD's 10th substation, a CRPUD press release showed. The rehire will give the board time to search for Nguyen's replacement.

"If it were not for the PERS reform that just occurred, I'm quite certain that this topic ... would not be up for discussion, and I would not feel compelled to come before my board as an employee and as a rate payer," Board Secretary Heidi Ralls told the board last week. "I respectfully urge each of you to please consider keeping John on as general manager for the next two years to allow the board to establish a thoughtful succession plan and to provide employees with the stability we have come to expect in order to complete the projects John has fostered since the beginning."

The board did not agree to a two-year term. Nguyen accepted the one-year offer.

"I just want to express my appreciation that the Board considered giving me an additional year so that I can help finish up some of the projects that we've been working on," Nguyen stated in the press release. "I'll do my best to get those projects at least close to finished."

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