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Seattle City Light DEBRA SMITH, General Manager and CEO
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Power for the People: A History of City Light

For more than a century, Seattle City Light has charted one of the most remarkable histories in the U.S. utility industry.

"Power for the People: A History of Seattle City Light," offers a lively look at the publicly owned utility from its start to present day, including fascinating historical photographs.

The book, published by non-profit HistoryLink, details City Light's founding in 1911 as a municipally owned alternative to provide a more stable, reliable and inexpensive alternative to the small, private utilities of the day, City Light promptly embarked on a program of dam building in the challenging gorges of the Skagit River.

Success on the Skagit provided an abundant supply of energy that gave Seattle the lowest electricity rates in the country and contributed to the city's emergence as a center for manufacturing and technology.

"Power for the People" goes on to describe the utility's competition with private and investor-owned utilities, challenges surrounding the nuclear-power debacle of the Washington Public Power Supply System and the West Coast power crisis of 2000-2001. Throughout, the book details City Light's evolution from a relentless promoter of energy consumption in its early days to its current role as a champion of energy conservation.

The book got its start from HistoryLink founder Walt Crowley, who felt there was a need for a comprehensive book on one of the city's most venerable institutions - City Light - and began writing "Power for the People" more than five years ago. He had almost completed the book when he died in 2007. The project was taken up by his widow, Marie McCaffrey, and the book's co-author, David Wilma, as well as HistoryLink staff members.

"Power for the People" is available for Purchase at local bookstores, on or the publisher's online bookstore at with a list price of $29.95.

HistoryLink describes itself as "the first and largest encyclopedia of community history created expressly for the Internet. is an evolving online encyclopedia of Washington state and local history. It provides a free, authoritative, and easily accessible history reference for the benefit of students, teachers, journalists, scholars, researchers, and the general public."
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