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Robert Trigaux

Progress Energy adds ex-Sen. Mel Martinez to board, ups Florida representation to 3 out of 14



Melmartinezleavessenatefloorsept2009apsusanwalsh Progress Energy, based in Raleigh, N.C., just added a new director to its board -- Florida's former U.S. Senator and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez -- giving Florida a third seat on the power company's board. Progress Energy is the parent of St. Petersburg's Progress Energy Florida, the state's second largest electricity provider behind Miami's Florida Power & Light. (Photo: Outgoing Sen. Mel Martinez leaves Senate floor last September, by AP's Susan Walsh.)

Martinez, whose appointment increases Progress Energy's board to 14, joins two other Florida-based board members; Carlos Saladrigas, a businessman from Miami, and John D. Baker III, a Jacksonville businessman. Martinez resigned from the Senate last year and in September became a lobbyist and law firm partner in the Washington and Tampa offices of DLA Piper.

So, that translates to just over 20 percent of the Progress Energy board comes from Florida, which represents roughly half the company's business. The good news is before Martinez, Florida's board representation was just over 15 percent.

Martinez, 63, was the first Cuban-American to serve in the U.S. Senate, from 2005 to 2009. He also served as a mayor of Orange County, Fla., and on the board of the Orlando Utilities Commission.

Here's Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson's statement on Martinez:

"Sen. Martinez brings significant experience with financial, energy and governmental affairs issues. His addition makes our strategic and diverse board of directors even stronger and will give us another informed point of view as we work to address changing energy realities and the important decisions and investments facing our company."

The timing of Martinez's addition to the board could come in handy. Progress Energy will soon be back before the Florida Public Service Commission -- the same PSC that stunned the company earlier this year by denying it a rate increase -- seeking another chance to increase rates. A little clout from Martinez would not hurt. In 2008, Progress Energy directors were paid $80,000 for their services, with some additional perks tossed in. Their pay last year will be made public later this month in the company's shareholder proxy statement.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:27am]


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