Former Employee to Accept Position After Commissioners Fired Chris Roden Monday

Updated: Lewis County Public Utility District Commission Announces David Plotz as New General Manager


After a Monday morning meeting where Lewis County Public Utility District (PUD) commissioners voted 2-1 to fire General Manager Chris Roden “without cause,” the commissioners went right to work, announcing a replacement during a regular business meeting Tuesday morning.

A motion by Commissioner Michael Kelly to hire Chehalis resident David Plotz as the new general manager was unanimously approved by Kelly and seatmates Ed Rothlin and Mike Hadaller. 

Roden, whose contract package totaled around $267,500 according to Kelly, will also see 12 months of severance pay. PUD staff declined to provide Roden’s salary, but public records obtained by The Chronicle show he signed on with the utility in 2018 for an initial salary of $200,000 plus benefits and six months of severance pay. In the beginning of 2019 and 2020 and at the end of 2020, the board passed resolutions saying Roden’s “performance warrants” boosts in pay and severance. The board also extended his employment with each of those resolutions, the most recent of which extended his term to seven years.

Kelly called those decisions “unfortunate,” blaming his predecessor, Ben Kostick, for the high cost of firing Roden.

Plotz will be offered a contract package worth $250,000 without any severance pay. For reference, The Daily News in Longview reported in 2018 the Cowlitz PUD manager was making  $246,000.

Plotz told The Chronicle Tuesday he has “no doubt in his mind” he’ll accept the position. 

A longtime Lewis County resident, Plotz wrote about his personal connection to the PUD and his experience as an employee in a statement to the board of commissioners and utility staff.

His goals for the PUD, he wrote, are to keep rates for businesses and families as low as possible, provide excellent service to customers, and ensure strong and safe infrastructure. He also said he’s asking former PUD manager Dave Muller to chair an organizational review panel alongside other community leaders including Connie Bode, retired branch manager of Columbia Bank, and Doug Miller, a retired PUD manager from Pacific County. The panel will interview staff and commissioners to make recommendations on “providing excellent service and low power rates,” Plotz said. 

“I grew up in Chehalis and have strong ties to the PUD. My dad worked almost his entire life for Lewis County Public Utility District and had a deep loyalty to this organization,” Plotz wrote in his statement. “He retired as a line crew truck driver and later came back to work part time washing PUD trucks. He was all about loyalty, hard work and giving back to community.”

Upon graduating from W.F. West High School, Plotz attended Washington State University to earn degrees in finance and accounting before obtaining his CPA. He worked for Citigroup, an international banking company, managing hundreds of staff across multiple regions.

“In 2009, I chose to step away from that corporate life to return to Chehalis to be closer to my father as he neared the end of his own life,” Plotz wrote in his statement. “At that time, I came to work for the PUD for the first time as Power Supply Manager managing power contracts, interfacing with BPA among other duties, under Dave Muller as manager. … Leaving Citigroup and coming to Lewis PUD was not for the money. My motivation goes back to my dad and to my love of our community. I came to the PUD because I felt I had something to offer.”

After three years, Plotz said he applied for the general manager position, but the board chose someone else. When Citigroup offered him a new position in Manila, Plotz began managing finance for seventeen countries, which then expanded into his most recent role in Japan.

Kelly called him “an exceptional individual who is very conservative.”

When asked if Plotz’s traits were what he thought Roden lacked, Kelly said, “Yes.”

Hadaller — who, like Kelly, ran a campaign focusing on lowering PUD customer’s rates — echoed that sentiment. 

“(He’s) more of a conservative-type of manager from what I have (heard),” Hadaller said, adding Plotz will bring the utility “many good things. I think we should let him get into office, give him time to get to know the system and let him work.”

Roden was voted into the position by previous commissioners Kostick — who was ousted by Kelly in the 2020 election — and Tim Cournyer, who lost in the 2022 primary race to Hadaller. Rothlin was elected in 2019. 

After the two most recently-elected commissioners focused their campaigns on the promise of keeping rates low, they cut ties with Roden shortly after Hadaller was sworn in. 

During the primary, Hadaller told The Chronicle: “I feel that the PUD is overspending. I feel that they waste a lot of money. I feel they have higher management that is overpaid.”

Likewise, on the campaign trail, Kelly said his goal as a commissioner was to “reign in spending and stabilize our rates.”

Despite Rothlin’s vote against terminating the contract with Roden, he said he was happy with the decision for the new manager and felt it represented forward progress for the utility.

“David has experience with the PUD,” Rothlin said. “I appreciate his Lewis County connection and he understands the customers that we have. He’s the right man.”

Commissioners serve for six-year terms and, according to the PUD’s website, are tasked with setting policy and overseeing the work of the general manager. They make an annual salary of $30,804.