Walter Derzay

Walter Derzay is running as a Republican to serve as Public Service Commissioner for southwest Montana.

A second Republican has entered the 2020 race for southwest Montana’s Public Service Commission seat.

Walter Derzay, of Belgrade, is seeking the seat held by Roger Koopman, a Republican who is prevented from running again because of term limits.

Derzay drives a garbage truck for L&L Site Services Inc. and previously worked as a bus driver and manager for a shuttle company. Through these jobs, he said he has seen firsthand how the Public Service Commission’s work to regulate utilities affects Montanans.

“I don’t want the (Public Service Commission) to just be some board that meets up in Helena on Tuesdays and shows up on the ballot every so often,” he said. “I want to represent and be a conduit for the guy who is living paycheck to paycheck, the average citizen of Montana.”

If he becomes a commissioner, Derzay said he would strive to ensure utilities are accessible, affordable and reliable. He plans to emphasize expanding and improving services in rural areas and to encourage local utility companies to provide these services.

“One of the big struggles in this part of the state is how expensive it is to live here,” he said. “I want to help alleviate this by ensuring our utilities remain affordable.”

He also would like to foster competition between utility companies because he believes in the free market’s ability to provide high-quality, low-cost and reliable services. Because most utilities are monopolies, he said he understands the need for regulations but wants to provide guidance to the companies rather than micromanaging them.

Derzay said he is open to exploring the expansion of renewable energy in Montana but said he would do so cautiously, ensuring the state continues to have predictable energy to meet its growing needs.

He is particularly supportive of homegrown solar initiatives and expanding the state’s use of nuclear energy, which he sees as necessary as coal becomes less viable.

“There is a lot for me to learn, but I have already started digging in and will listen to all points of view,” he said.

Derzay joins Dillon lawyer Jim Brown in the Republican race for a four-year term on the Public Service Commission. Bozeman Rep. Tom Woods, who has spent four terms in the state House, is the lone Democrat running for the seat.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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