Candidates seek to mobilize young voters in local energy board race

Engineer Max Moran and occupational therapist Tori Lee are challenging broadcaster Scott Anderson for his seat on the Lower Valley Energy board.
From left to right: Scott Anderson, Tori Lee and Max Moran — who are all running to represent the energy co-op's sixth district, which includes the western portion of Jackson. (Courtesy photos)

by | Jun 19, 2023 | Elections, Environment

It’s not the typical election season in Teton County, but residents are still getting ballots in the mail. 

Lower Valley Energy, the local electricity co-op, is holding an election for board members, and one seat is hotly contested: the sixth district, which includes much of the western portion of the town of Jackson.

Two new contenders — civil engineer Max Moran and occupational therapist Tori Lee — are running against incumbent Scott Anderson, a longtime broadcaster in the region who’s held the board seat since 2017.

Moran and Lee said they are trying to engage a younger generation to vote in the election. Anderson said he hopes to continue to provide good governance to the rural electricity co-op.

Scott Anderson

Anderson, who owns Jackson Hole Radio, is no stranger to campaigning. He has sat on the Jackson Town Council and ran for the Teton County Board of Commissioners. 

Anderson at the studio for Jackson Hole Radio, which he has managed for over thirty years. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

Since taking the helm of the energy board, he’s been contested in elections several times and said he welcomes the competition. 

“The age group of the candidates running [this year] is a little bit younger than we’ve seen, but it’s encouraging to know that younger people are interested in serving the community,” he said.

Anderson, who’s 60, is running on a platform of continuing what he’s doing: providing safe, affordable and reliable energy to the valley. 

“It seems like a simple platform, but they’re three really important things,” Anderson said.

He added he hopes to continue to curb emissions and reduce power consumption through Energy Conservation Works, a partnership between the co-op, the Town of Jackson and Teton  County, and continue to pursue clean energy opportunities such as wind power from the Horse Butte farm in Idaho.

He also said he understands the similarities and differences between Jackson and Star Valley, the other area the energy co-op serves.

“I think I have good community experience,” Anderson said. “I understand our consumer members.”

Max Moran

One of Anderson’s challengers, 27-year-old Max Moran, said he wants to see a more proactive approach. As an engineer at Beyond Efficiency, which works to reduce homeowners’ energy use, he said there are a lot of federal dollars on the table right now to make electricity systems more efficient.

Max Moran has lived in Jackson for six years and works to create high-performance, sustainable housing. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

“I really think that the board needs someone who is active in pursuing this money for clean energy projects or else it will not get taken advantage of,” Moran said.

He added that these funds, some from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, come “once in a generation,” saying he wants to help individual homeowners access the money to transition to clean energy, as well as the utility group as a whole. This could go toward projects involving community solar power or updates to the electricity grid, he said.

These are just some of the points Moran is emphasizing in his campaign, which has involved months of rallying friends to vote and canvassing at the weekly People’s Market in Jackson.

“I’m fortunate in that this is not a political race — it’s not a mean, ugly race,” Moran said. “At the end of day, we just want to represent our area and help [Lower Valley Energy] be the best utility it can be.” 

Moran said it was also Lower Valley’s co-op model that made him decide to run for the seat. Whereas many utility companies across the country are owned by investors or municipalities, electric co-ops are common in the Mountain West and rural places. 

Moran said this means utility customers — or members — get to decide where power comes from and how money is spent.

“People should be a little more excited about [the co-op] in my opinion,” Moran said.

Tori Lee

Like Moran, 31-year-old Tori Lee decided to run for the energy board seat because she was drawn to the co-op model. She moved from Philadelphia five years ago and said she was immediately impressed by how well the co-op looks out for its members.

“I thought that would be something great to contribute to in my community,” she said.

Tori Lee said she’s intertwined in the Jackson and Star Valley communities and will bring fresh perspectives to the board. (Courtesy of Tori Lee)

While she isn’t very familiar with the energy world, Lee said — if elected — she would commit herself to learning and bring new perspectives to the board.

As an occupational therapist at Teton County School District, she works with students transitioning into adulthood and sees the financial stressors many in the community face. One of her main priorities if elected? Keep costs low.

“We don’t need to increase the financial burden for our members because there’s already so much of that going on right now,” she said.

Lee also said she has experience working with employers to make jobs more accessible and hopes to help the co-op retain staff amid high housing prices.

While Lee said she is a little worried having two new contenders running for the seat could split the vote, she’s happy to see the representation. 

“I think it’s important that our community has people on our boards in all areas, that we have fresh, young perspectives, that it’s not just people who have been around for years and years,” Lee said. “I think I can bring a lot of new ideas to the table.”

How to vote

Ballots were mailed to bill-paying members earlier this month. They can be returned by mail — or dropped off at Lower Valley’s office in Jackson or Afton — by the board’s June 29 annual meeting, where results will be announced.

Positions for district one and seven are also up for reelection this year. Those board members are running unopposed.


Want More Stories Like This?

Donate any amount to support independent media in the Tetons.

KHOL 89.1 Jackson Hole Community Radio Membership Support Ad

About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

Related Stories

Pin It on Pinterest