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Valley Electric names co-op industry veteran as new CEO

Updated November 26, 2019 - 5:17 pm

Valley Electric Association Inc.’s board of directors has tapped a 30-year veteran in cooperative management as its new CEO.

Mark A. Stallons, president and CEO of Owen Electric Cooperative Inc. in Kentucky, was named as the new CEO of Valley Electric, a news release from the co-op stated on Saturday. The announcement ends a months-long search for a permanent CEO, with this being its seventh to have held the position on either a permanent, interim or acting basis, or designated to take the role, in about 18 months.

“Every organization has challenges, which I view as opportunities,” Stallons said in Valley’s Nov. 24 release. “In times of difficult challenges, leadership, teamwork, development and problem solving are necessary. In the last few days, I have met employees who are eager to work together and build an electric cooperative that is member-focused, looking ahead and leading by example. I see huge potential in Valley Electric.”

Stallons is pegged to begin working in Pahrump at Valley on Jan. 6, the co-op’s release stated.

Valley chose Stallons out of a pool of 59 candidates seeking the open CEO position. The co-op contracted with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association to facilitate its CEO search in the fall, according to an Aug. 12 news release from Valley.

The finalists were interviewed during the week starting Nov. 18.

Stallons will replace Valley Electric Interim CEO and District 5 director Terrie D’Antonio, who stepped into the position at the end of October with the departure of former Interim CEO Dick Peck.

“We are thrilled to have Mark as CEO of Valley Electric Association,” said D’Antonio in Valley’s release. “Mark comes from a larger co-op than we are, and he brings tremendous experience. I believe he is just the right person to lead our co-op, working with our members and employees.”

Owen Electric, where Stallons has been at the helm since 2009, serves 62,500 members in the Owenton, Kentucky area and employees 135, according to Valley’s release.

Owen Electric is roughly over 2.4 times larger than Valley, based on membership level. Valley has about 18,000 members.

Owen has a $180 million operating budget, According to Valley’s release. Valley has approximately an $82 million operating budget in comparison.

Valley’s board was positive on bringing Stallons in.

“The board of directors chose Mark because we believe that he is a good fit with our employees, will communicate very well with our members and has the ability to lead VEA to a sound financial future,” said Kathleen Keyes, board president and District 4 (Fish Lake Valley) director, in the co-op’s release.

Stallons said in Valley’s release that a commitment to transparency and openness by Valley’s “new” board is “something that VEA has going in its favor.”

“Look at the website, and you can see how real that commitment is,” he said in the release.

Stallons was attracted to the Pahrump co-op by its investment in high-speed broadband. He noted there will be a learning curve in the release, “and I need to learn as much about Valley as fast as I can.”

Tax records reveal Stallons’ compensation levels at Owen Electric.

According to an Internal Revenue Service Form 990 for Owen Electric, Stallons had reportable compensation from Owen of $319,256 in a 2017 tax filing. Stallons also had an estimated amount of other compensation from Owen and related organizations of $133,764.

Former Valley Electric CEO Thomas Husted had reportable compensation of $434,686 with other compensation of $207,219, according to a 2016 IRS Form 990, the most recent filing available on the IRS’ website.

The percentage difference is about 34.5% of Husted’s compensation in 2016 and Stallons’ 2017 compensation at Owen Electric, calculated using data from IRS filings. In dollars, Husted’s compensation in the 2016 tax filing was $188,885 higher than Stallons’ 2017 compensation at Owen Electric.

Valley leadership changes

Since Husted announced his retirement in May 2018, Valley has seen several changes in leadership.

The first leader to take the helm of Valley after Husted was Angela Evans, who is no longer with the co-op.

Evans was arrested in February for suspicion of embezzlement from the co-op with allegations that she used $75,000 of co-op money for work on her personal residence in Pahrump. Evans has never been charged with a crime.

Evans’ arrest followed the Nye County Sheriff’s Office opening an investigation into Valley Electric over allegations that “hush money” was paid to current and former Valley employees to keep quiet about Husted’s alleged sexual harassment of a female employee. Husted has never been charged with a crime or arrested over the sheriff’s office’s investigation.

Evans was named to the CEO position permanently in October 2018, taking on the position on an interim basis in May 2018. Just prior to Evans being named permanently, the co-op had named Byron C. Nolde, CEO of Oconto Electric Cooperative in Wisconsin, to the position.

Just days later Nolde said he was going to stay in Wisconsin.

After Evans was arrested, the co-op named Chief Financial Officer Steve Morrison as acting chief executive of the co-op, later naming Dick Peck as interim CEO. Peck left the co-op at the end of October and headed back to his Kenai, Alaska home.

Before his departure, D’Antonio was named to the position with the expectancy that a permanent replacement would be named before Thanksgiving.

On Nov. 24, Stallons was named as the incoming CEO.

Stallons’ background

Stallons has been involved in organizations representing the cooperative industry, including the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, where he served on the organization’s legislative committee as vice chairman, and the resolutions committee. He also served on the national association’s energy innovation task force and its regulatory committee.

Valley is a member of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The national association is a national service organization and represents over 900 consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives, public power districts and public utility districts in the U.S.

The longtime cooperative executive was also a member of the Governor’s Energy Efficiency Task Force in Kentucky, according to Valley’s release.

Stallons is on the board of directors for Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, of which Valley is a member. Touchstone represents over 700 co-ops in 46 states and 30 million member-owners, according to its website.

Stallons worked as a vice president and general manager at Egyptian Electric Cooperative in Steelville, Illinois for six years before coming to Owen Electric. Prior to that, Stallons was vice president of operations and power supply at Midwest Energy Cooperative in Cassopolis, Michigan from 1994 to 2002, according to Valley.

Stallons has two adult sons that live in the Midwest, along with five grandchildren, and one on the way. His wife, Judy, is a United Methodist minister. The incoming CEO has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Ohio Northern University and a master of business administration from the University of Dayton, according to Valley’s release.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com, on Twitter @MeehanLv

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