TAMPA — After three years at the helm of Tampa Electric Co., Nancy Tower is retiring in mid-2021.
The utility’s Canadian parent company Emera Inc. announced the leadership change Thursday. Tower is one of just a few women leaders in the top position at major Tampa Bay firms, and one of three at local energy companies.
“The decision to retire was not easy, as it’s been an incredible 23 years with Emera,” Nancy Tower, CEO and president, said in a statement. “I am proud of the work I’ve done with the Tampa Electric team these past three years, and I look forward to continuing to focus on key projects through 2021.”
The utility will begin a “rigorous recruitment process” to find her replacement.
Tower, 61, is a longtime executive of Emera who served as the company’s chief corporate development officer before moving to Tampa Electric. She also held executive positions in Emera’s Canadian branches.
She took over as Tampa Electric’s president in December 2017 after Gordon Gillette departed. Gillette had worked with the company for 36 years, eight as chief executive.
“Nancy has had an impressive career at Emera, and she has been a key part of Emera’s growth story,” Scott Balfour, Emera chief executive, said in a release.
Tower’s decision to leave, spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said, was her own.
When Tower joined the Tampa utility, among her top priorities were safety and clean energy.
Tower joined shortly after a deadly accident at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station killed five workers. They were performing a cleaning procedure that the utility knew wasn’t safe, prompting an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation. The federal agency found that Tampa Electric ignored its own rules, imposing a $126,749 fine and an unusual “willful” violation, one of the most serious violations. The utility contested the “willful” designation.
Tower rolled out updated safety procedures and training for employees following her 2017 arrival, including instituting and filling a “vice president for safety” position reporting to Tower. That included an audited safety system and a cultural assessment of its employees' perceptions of safety.
Tower also oversaw Tampa Electric’s transition to the highest percentage of renewable energy generation in the company’s history.
“One of the biggest things we’re trying to do is ‘green’ our fleet of generators,” Tower said during a Tampa event in early 2017.
Three months before Tower took over as chief executive, Tampa Electric committed to generating 600 megawatts of solar energy capacity by 2021. The company is on track to meet that goal. Earlier this year, Tampa Electric asked regulators for permission to double this by 2023, meaning 14 percent of its energy would be generated by solar power. Today, most of the utility’s power — 84 percent — comes from natural gas.
Tower is one of three women who run Tampa Bay power companies. Tampa Electric and Duke Energy Florida, which serve the majority of the bay area, are led by women, as is Seminole Electric Cooperative (Lisa D. Johnson).
“In the energy business we’re not competitors in the traditional sense, but we push each other to do better respectively on our core aims,” Catherine Stempien, president of Duke Energy Florida, said in a statement. “She has done a wonderful job leading the TECO team, and I will miss working with her.”
Bob Rohrlack, CEO of the Tampa Bay Chamber, said one of Tower’s strengths has been integrating out-of-town Emera into the local community.
“She made herself present in the community,” he said. “She made herself available, and that helped a lot.”
In 2019, Tower served as the Light the Night Walk chair for the Suncoast chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Ron Christaldi, partner with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, served as the chair in 2018.
“In Nancy’s short time here, she made many friends and did much to serve this community,” Christaldi said. “I enjoyed serving with her on the (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society night walk) and wish her happiness in this next phase of her life.”
While Tower did not say what she will be doing in retirement, spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs noted that Tower will continue to serve as a board member for various organizations. She plans to stay in the Tampa Bay area through her retirement.