Ashland Director of Electric Utilities Dick Wanderscheid, who built successful water and electricity conservation programs for the city, has accepted a new job with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Ashland Director of Electric Utilities Dick Wanderscheid, who built successful water and electricity conservation programs for the city, has accepted a new job with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Wanderscheid began working for the city in 1979 and has served in a variety of positions. His last day with the city will be Dec. 31.

In 1982, before the city of Ashland launched electricity conservation programs, Ashlanders used 8,483 kilowatt hours of electricity per capita.

Despite the proliferation of energy-consuming products like microwaves and computers, per capita electricity use in Ashland had actually dipped to 8,446 kilowatt hours in 2007, the latest year when numbers were available.

In Oregon, per capita electricity use spiked from 9,426 to 13,023 kilowatt hours between 1982 and 2006. United States per capita electricity use rose from 6,984 to 12,268 kilowatt hours from 1982 to 2006, the latest year when figures were available.

The city of Ashland started water conservation programs in 2000. That year, each person was using an average of 182 gallons each day.

In 2007, that number had dipped to 154 gallons per day, although Wanderscheid cautioned that water use can vary significantly due to weather and water supplies.

The city instituted mandatory water curtailment this year to deal with low water supplies in Reeder Reservoir.

Mayor John Stromberg said that Ashland has been fortunate to have Wanderscheid working for the city government for so many years.

"Under his leadership, the city of Ashland emerged as a role model for other communities seeking to implement aggressive conservation programs and the use of solar energy," Stromberg said.

He said the Bonneville Environmental Foundation will benefit from Wanderscheid's leadership skills and expertise.

The foundation is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of renewable energy, watershed restoration and helping people shrink their carbon footprints, city officials said.

The foundation created a new position for Wanderscheid. As vice president of project management, he will manage a group of people who work in the Solar4Schools program.

Solar4Schools was lauded last year as the best solar education program in the nation.

Solar systems are installed at schools to provide learning opportunities for students. More than 70 projects were completed in 2008, city officials said.

"It's been a great career here, but I had an opportunity open up that will allow me to pursue things I really love, which are education and renewable energy," Wanderscheid said. "It will be nice to operate at the regional and national level."

A long-time Ashland resident, he will move to Portland for his new job.

Wanderscheid said Ashland's strong conservation programs will continue after he is gone because elected officials, city staff and residents have a very strong conservation ethic.

The city has also promoted renewable energy projects, including the construction of two large-scale solar systems.

Ashland will soon have a financial stake in maintaining its commitment to conservation and renewable energy.

In 2011, the Bonneville Power Administration — which wholesales electricity to the Ashland Electric Department — will begin a new rate system in which utilities are charged about twice as much for increased electricity demand.

The Ashland City Council has set a goal to address electricity load growth here through conservation and renewable energy.

City Administrator Martha Bennett said she doesn't know yet what she will do about replacing Wanderscheid.

The city is currently recruiting for a director of the Ashland Fiber Network, a city-owned Internet service. In years past, the Electric Department director also had to head AFN, but some community members faulted that arrangement, saying not enough time could be devoted to AFN.

The city hired an AFN leader in 2006, but that person left in 2008 to take a new job in eastern Oregon.

Whatever happens with Wanderscheid's position, Bennett said he will be missed in Ashland. She said he has an excellent reputation in the region and has been a great representative for the city.

Wanderscheid said he will miss his friends and co-workers, but is excited about the new opportunity to work for the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

"Working with the city has been a wonderful experience and I want to thank all the elected officials, management and staff I have been fortunate to work with," he said. "I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish here in Ashland."

For more information on city of Ashland conservation programs for residents and businesses, visit www.ashland.or.us/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=432.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.