A local attorney, with a background in utility and energy issues, hopes to fill a vacant seat on the Delta Montrose Electric Association board of directors. John “Jock” Fleming, Jr. is shooting for the South District seat; his opponent is Kenneth Otto.
Fleming has a lot of name recognition going for him. He and his wife, Ann Marie, have lived in Montrose since 1986. Their 43 years of marriage have produced a trio of kids. “We have three grown children, Mellie, John, and Anna. Mellie and Anna live in Denver, John in Austin, Tx.,” said their proud dad.
Jock was born in Brooklyn, New York and lived in New Haven, Conn. and Washington, D.C. prior to Montrose.
The Monitor was curious whether the former high school basketball coach got his nickname because of his athletic skills. Fleming smiled, and said “My father is John, and I’m John, Jr. The day I was born, they started calling me Jock, to be separate from my father.
“’Jock’ is an old Irish and Scottish name, and I’m Irish.”
Fleming graduated from the law school at George Mason University, in Virginia. He is a partner in the law firm of Fleming and Lowenberg, of Montrose.
The Monitor asked why he decided to run for the DMEA board. “I believe that DMEA is one of the most important institutions in our area,” he answered. “DMEA obviously controls all of the electricity for this valley. Because of the hydro work that’s going on, DMEA is also now involved in the water in this area. DMEA is also dealing with getting the internet into not only the towns and cities but also the rural areas in this valley. I think those are three very important issues for this area, and I believe that I can help DMEA improve the quality of life in this area.”
He has had prior experience dealing with energy issues. “I spent ten years on the Colorado Utilities Consumers Board; that is the advisory board to the Office of Consumer Counsel. The Office of Consumer Counsel represents consumers in all of the utility cases that appear in front of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
“On that board, I really learned the utilities industry.” He learned what utilities need, and how they operate. “I think I could be a big help on the (DMEA) board because of that.”
Fleming supports DMEA’s effort to withdraw from its contract with the Tri-State electrical co-op, which is under consideration by the PUC.
“Once we get out of Tri-State, we need to begin to develop the local resources. If we got out of the Tri- State contract today, tomorrow we could start generating 20 percent of the electricity for DMEA right here in the DMEA service area. I would like to increase that significantly.
“Right now, we are sending $15 million a year out of this valley to Tri State that we could be keeping in this valley. DMEA is already a major economic factor in Delta and Montrose, and it could become a much larger factor if we were allowed to create our own energy here, rather than being required to purchase it from Tri-State.”
Fleming argues that Tri-State’s continued use of coal to generate electricity is a big part of the problem. “The cost of coal has continued to rise while the cost of renewables (i.e. solar, hydro, wind, methane gas, etc.) has been falling. In fact, renewables are less expensive than coal. But, Tri State is coal-centered, and when DMEA purchases power from Tri-State, it’s all coming from coal. ”
The board candidate said that he’s also interested in Elevate, DMEA’s broadband subsidiary. “I would like to see DMEA continue to work with Elevate, and make sure that we’re getting out to the farms and ranches, and little places like Pea Green, that really need the broadband in order to stay involved in the modern economic system.”
With the variety of serious issues on Jock Fleming’s plate, the Monitor asked what he does to relax. He chuckled. “Well, for many years I coached basketball, but I gave that up a couple of years ago. I exercise. I occasionally still play basketball. I read a lot of books. I walk our dog a lot, and take hikes up in the mountains. This is such a beautiful, beautiful area that I really try to take advantage of it.”
DMEA’s annual meeting and board of directors election will happen on June 20 at Hotchkiss High School, 438 Bulldog St., in Hotchkiss. Ballots will be mailed out at the end of May, and are due back by 6 p.m. on June 20.