Mary Powell will step down as president and CEO of Green Mountain Power at the end of this year, the state's largest electric utility announced Monday.
Powell has been in the leadership position for 12 years, and with GMP for more than 20 years. She will be succeeded as president and CEO by current GMP Senior Vice President Mari McClure, effective Jan. 1, 2020.
“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve in this role, and work alongside so many dedicated employees, who care so deeply about this state, the planet, and the customers we serve,” Powell said in a GMP press release sent Monday morning.
But Powell told VPR Monday that what she's most proud of are not specific policy changes or new power projects; she said she helped transform the culture at GMP to one where the workspace is open and employees are focused on their customers and each other.
"Without a shadow of a doubt I look at my most significant accomplishment as being part of building this amazing culture at Green Mountain Power of emotional connectivity," she said, "not just with each other, and not just so that we can deliver fast, effective, cost-effective service for customers, but so that we can really deliver on our love of Vermonters and our obsession with customers."
Powell said she is not leaving to take another job, although she said she wanted to continue working in the energy field, particularly on reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change.
“I’ve been doing it 12 years; it's a long time,” Powell said. “And there are other things in life that interest me. And I have a ton of energy, a lot of drive. And I am feeling that feeling that it’s time to launch.”
Powell's statement in GMP's press release noted her plans "to continue the fight against climate change in Vermont and across the country," and she praised McClure as "a highly effective leader who will deliver great results for customers."
In talking to VPR Monday, Powell also said that the company will be in good hands under McClure’s leadership.
“The most important thing to me, back to culture and the company, was really making sure this company had this amazing person to take the helm,” she said. “And that’s been where a lot of my focus has been over the last year, has been this succession process.”
Powell’s announcement comes just days after the Public Utility Commission, which regulates the state’s utilities, approved a change in the corporate ownership at GMP, which is owned by Quebec energy companies.
On Sept. 20 the commission signed off on a deal that will indirectly increase the ownership by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company, of both GMP and Vermont Gas. Opponents worry the change could lead to more pipeline construction in Vermont, although Vermont Gas says it has no plans to build more lines.
The commission also recently approved a nearly 3% rate increase for GMP. In its ruling, the PUC noted the impact on bills will actually be greater because a temporary bill credit expired and other charges will be rolled into bills.
“The commission acknowledges that these increases will be a burden for all customers, particularly residential customers on fixed incomes and businesses that use large amounts of energy,” the PUC said in its Aug. 29 ruling.
But Powell said the utility's rates are still the second lowest in New England, and that rate increases have kept below the rate of inflation under her tenure.
Public Service Commissioner June Tierney heads the state agency that represents the public in utility issues. While the department and GMP have disagreed over the rate impact and the risk of certain projects, Tierney said Powell has been a transformational leader and has served the state well as she focused on transforming the way electricity is produced and delivered.
“Among utility executives in the United States, she was among the very first to grasp the need to green our grid, and to act decisively in bringing this change about in Vermont,” Tierney said Monday.
Update 5:57 p.m. This post was updated to include VPR interviews with Powell and Tierney.