TAMPA — In just a few weeks, the electric company that has powered Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa for more than a century will be under new management. Nancy Tower, an executive at the utility’s Canadian parent company Emera Inc., is taking over as president and CEO of Tampa Electric beginning Dec. 1.
She succeeds Gordon Gillette, 57, a 36-year veteran of Tampa Electric. The move represents not only a new face for one of the two dominant utilities in Tampa Bay, but a notable shift to a leader without local roots.
Here’s what you need to know about Tower, 58, ahead of her arrival.
Tower’s priorities for Tampa Electric shore up squarely with Emera’s overarching values, Tower said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
"It’s really for me about the culture that we value," she said, "which is a strong safety culture, a strong customer culture, strong customer service and a commitment to the (environment)."
Safety and Big Bend
Tower comes to Tampa Electric on the heels of a major accident at its Big Bend Power Station. Five workers died after performing a cleaning procedure that the utility knew was dangerous, sparking an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation. The results are due by late December.
"We were and continue to be very concerned for the families obviously, that’s the first and foremost. We are committed to learning form that tragedy and learning from it and changing what needs to be changed."
While it is still early for specifics, Tower said, much of the safety improvement she plans involves learning from the company’s previous mistakes.
"We’re starting to make changes already," she said, without elaborating.
Tower is a homegrown Emera employee. She has worked for Emera for 20 years, serving most recently as the chief corporate development officer, and was "instrumental" in the Tampa Electric acquisition, the company said in a statement.
When Emera purchased Tampa Electric in late 2015, concerns were raised over the level of autonomy that the local utility would have from its new parent company to the north. Tampa Electric currently has about 2,000 employees.
Tower hinted that there would be a Canadian influence on the Tampa utility.
"I have spent a long time with Emera," she said. "I think it would be difficult to say that I would distance myself or not bring a bit of Emera with me as I come down here to be the CEO at Tampa Electric. That said, there is an excellent team here, a really strong team, and I am looking forward to working with them."
Local civic involvement
Historically, the top position at Tampa Electric has been one tied to civic involvement in the area. John Ramil, former CEO of TECO Energy who oversaw both Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas, was a Tampa native and earned a master’s and honorary doctorate degree from the University of South Florida. When he stepped down from his position with the utility, he was the longest-serving member of the USF Board of Trustees, which he chaired from 2010 to 2015.
Gordon Gillette, who also received his master’s degree from USF, served on the boards of the American Gas Association and Enterprise Florida. He chaired the audit committee for the gas association, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., the Florida Coordinating Group and Florida Reliability Coordinating Council.
Tower did not have specifics yet on how she plans to be involved in the Tampa Bay community, but her past involvement in Canada may give an indication of what to expect.
"Being a part of (the community) is important to us," she said. "It’s important to me."
Tower emphasized her breadth of civic involvement during her time in Canada. She was on the board of United Way Halifax and chaired its strategic fundraising cabinet. She has also served on the board of several other organizations, including the Atlantic Institute for Marketing Studies, Nova Scotia Business Inc., QEII Foundation and CAA Atlantic.
She also has been involved with her alma mater, Dalhousie University, serving on the advisory council of the university’s corporate residency MBA program and its Faculty of Management Advisory Board.
"I know there’s been a long and strong tradition here around at Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas around community support," she said. "That will continue."
Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.