GMP CEO to step down at end of year, successor announced

  • Green Mountain Power President and Chief Executive Officer Mary Powell answers a question during an interview with the Valley News editorial board in West Lebanon, N.H., on May 5, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News file photo — Geoff Hansen

Published: 9/30/2019 10:11:17 PM
Modified: 9/30/2019 10:11:13 PM

Green Mountain Power President and CEO Mary Powell will be leaving the state’s largest electric utility at the end of this year.

Mari McClure, senior vice president, will be GMP’s new head.

The changes were announced Monday in a statement from the company.

Powell praised the company’s employees who “care so deeply about this state, the planet and the customers we serve.”

“I think my biggest accomplishment is creating a team-based environment where we don’t just love our customers but we show love for each other,” she said.

In interview Monday, Powell said she had initially turned down working at Green Mountain Power, or “the glass palace,” as the investor-owned utility was then called, because the culture felt too stiff.

“The then-CEO had a massive office with a private bathroom and a private conference room,” she said.

Today, Powell, who has worked at GMP for more than 20 years and seen the utilities’ territory climb from 85,000 to 265,000 customers, works at a stand-up desk in an open-concept office.

Powell has been CEO and president of GMP for the past 12 years and led the utility through its 2012 merger with Central Vermont Public Service, when it became the state’s largest electricity company. The state having two investor-owned utilities frustrated Powell, who said she was proud to have been on GMP’s leadership team when its parent company, then-called Gaz Metro, bought CVPS.

“That used to drive me to distraction because there were a lot of costs that went into having these two very separate entities serving Vermonters,” she said.

Powell also presided over the company’s 2014 Benefit corporation certification, making GMP the first utility in the world to obtain that status. Earlier this year, GMP announced it would be going 100 percent renewable by 2030.

“I have high hopes for the state,” Powell said. “I actually think we can continue to be an incredible leader in showing the world how to transform to a community, home and business-based energy system that dramatically reduces carbon out of transportation and home heating.”

When Powell started as CEO, there were “less than a handful” of female CEOs of investor-owned utilities around the country; now, close to 20% of S&P 500 utilities have female heads.

“I felt like an outlier,” she said. “And so in some ways I always kind of leaned into that and looked at it as just kind of like, I’m going to be my authentic self, I’m going to bring what I think is best for this organization. And if it doesn’t fly and they don’t like it, fine I’ll find something else worth doing.”

In her personal life, Powell made a highly-publicized decision to undergo a double mastectomy after testing positive in 2014 for a breast cancer-indicating gene.

“I got to help a lot of women going through that decision or … facing breast cancer,” she said. “But it also just created a vulnerability and an emotional connection with people that I never would have guessed.”

Powell has not announced any future plans.

McClure, who is currently senior vice president of system support and IT operations and chief of talent and workplace development, has been at GMP for a decade. Previously, she was a corporate and real estate attorney at Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC and a Division I basketball coach at Colgate University.

“This is an incredible time in the energy world, and I’m thrilled to lead GMP as we work to meet our goals, including being 100% renewable by 2030, and leveraging fiscal discipline and energy innovations to deliver results for customers, with a continued focus on reducing carbon,” said McClure in a prepared statement.

“I’ve heard from everybody, just people out in the field from all over the state of Vermont today, how excited they are, that it’s going to be Mari McClure, so that speaks volumes to her being the right choice,” Powell said.

Elizabeth Bankowski, GMP board member and head of the Windham Foundation, said the board was “appreciative” of Powell’s leadership and was excited about the selection of McClure as the next head of the company.

“Mari’s commitment to Vermont and to the company, and her amazing track record of leadership, has us excited about this next chapter,” Bankowski said in a prepared statement.

The announcement comes the week after a Canadian holding company received approval to buy out the last public company that owns the parent companies of GMP and Vermont Gas.

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