Board honors retiring CEO Wayne Nelson with commemorative naming of Community Room
VANCOUVER — In a regular public meeting Tuesday, the Clark Public Utilities Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to appoint Lena Wittler as the new general manager and CEO, effective immediately. The resolution was introduced in a regular meeting on May 7 and reviewed and approved in a unanimous vote Tuesday.
“Ms. Wittler has our full confidence and support in her new role. As a board we look forward to working with her to support our priorities of providing excellent service while maintaining affordability and improving reliability across our service area,” said Nancy Barnes, president of the Clark Public Utilities Board of Commissioners.
“It’s an incredible honor and privilege to step into this role at a time of sustained rate stability and consistently high levels of customer satisfaction,” said Wittler. “We’re fortunate in Clark County to enjoy at cost, public power and water that is truly operated solely for the benefit of residents and local businesses here in our communities.”
Wayne Nelson stepped down from his role as general manager and CEO and was honored by staff and the board with commemorative naming of the Wayne W. Nelson Community Room, the utility’s public meeting space, a tribute to his legacy of service to the communities of Clark County. Nelson will retain his role as general counsel through his retirement at the end of June.
Wittler received an annual salary of $240,000, a $400 car allowance and all benefits currently afforded regular employees.
“This utility is respected in the industry and by our customers and Ms. Wittler has been instrumental in both fostering and nurturing relationships with our various stakeholders,” said Barnes at a May 7 meeting. “Ms. Wittler has a deep and unique understanding of the opportunities ahead as well as the challenges our industry is facing and provides a measured, data-driven approach to leadership as we execute our priorities going forward.”
Wittler is a 20-year veteran of the utility industry, having served in a variety of finance, human resources and communications roles, most recently as the director of communications and employee resources, overseeing all communications, public affairs, utility-wide research and analytics, human resources and loss control.
Noting the utility’s unique culture of customer service, the board chose to interview and evaluate only senior internal leaders in the succession planning process.
“Much like the broad perspective Mr. Nelson brought to his role, having served as general legal counsel prior to serving as GM/CEO, Ms. Wittler has a unique 360-degree view of the utility. She’s led utility research and analytics for more than a decade, overseeing all customer and internal communications, and managing legislative policy and public affairs,” said Commissioner Jane Van Dyke.
Wittler is widely respected in the utility as a pragmatic and measured leader with an ability to navigate complex issues diplomatically and with broad perspective. Prior to her work with the utility she worked in education and judicial support. She holds a B.A. from Willamette University and an M.B.A. from the University of Portland. Throughout her career, Wittler has established a reputation as an advocate for employee culture as a driver of customer service, and is active in the industry research community, providing a deep and comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead.
The board acknowledged the profound legacy Nelson will leave. In the course of his nearly 30-year career, he led the utility through significant transitions during which it has been widely regarded as best in class and ranked highest in customer satisfaction among midsize electric utilities in the West by J.D. Power for 11 years in a row.
“As commissioners, we have been fortunate to have steady leadership at the helm of this utility, in addition to consistency and experience among my board colleagues,” said Commissioner Jim Malinowski. “The employee culture of this organization is uniquely customer-focused and as a board we believe it’s important to maintain our tradition of high customer satisfaction through consistent leadership and cultural cohesion. For that reason, an elevation of a current employee to the general manager role was a natural path.”
During his tenure, Nelson established an organizational commitment to doing what’s right for all customers, providing safe and high quality power and water in an environmentally responsible way, while delivering consistently excellent customer service. The board’s objective through this leadership transition is to uphold and further improve the programs and services of the PUD while maintaining the core principles of affordability, reliability and customer focus.
“Going forward, our priorities are the same – providing high quality service with responsibility, accountability and transparency,” said Commissioner Barnes. “Reliable and affordable electric and water service is paramount to our lives and to business in Clark County. As customers of Clark Public Utilities, we all benefit when the utility runs smoothly and I am confident that this next chapter of leadership will continue in our tradition of excellence.”
More information available at www.clarkpublicutilities.com.