City Light was a product of mounting public anxiety over monopoly control of Seattle's electric services and street railways. Voters approved bonds for a municipal dam and power plant on the Cedar River in 1902. J. D. Ross supervised construction. The project delivered its first current to Seattle on January 10, 1905.
The Legacy of J. D. Ross
The former Water Department was renamed the Department of Light and Water in 1904 under superintendent L. B. Youngs (1860-1923). R. M. Arms served briefly as the first Superintendent of Lighting before Ross succeeded him in 1911.
Ross guided development of city-owned dams on the Skagit River beginning in 1918. Private utilities deeply resented him. Mayor Frank Edwards dismissed Ross in 1931 and voters promptly recalled him. The new mayor, John F. Dore, immediately rehired Ross, who headed City Light until 1935. He left to join the new Securities Exchange Commission, and died four years later.