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Valley’s interim leader looks toward cooperative’s future

Updated June 7, 2018 - 1:12 pm

The next era for Valley Electric Association Inc., and related companies continues to form, as new leadership is ushered in.

Angela Evans, interim CEO of Valley Electric, said her plans and outlook are taking shape with just over a month passing since she took the helm of the cooperative following the swift retirement of her predecessor, Thomas Husted.

“We’re continuing to move forward,” Evans said.

Forward, however, doesn’t mean abandoning initiatives or ideas that were already in motion.

“When you really think about that change, a lot of people tend to believe that vision, for example, leaves when you have a visionary leader step out the door,” she said. “And really, the way that I see that is that the cooperative has visionary leadership, and that starts with our board of directors.”

The board’s vision is universal, spreading through the leadership team and to the employee base at Valley, which work to execute its plan. Simultaneously, leadership and others working inside the cooperative help shape what that vision will consist of by bringing ideas to the board, according to Evans.

Community center

A large-scale community center is one vision left by the previous leadership and the current board of directors—with a representation expressed at VEA’s annual meeting at the end of April.

During a presentation at Pahrump Valley High School, Husted announced a 150,000-square-foot complex consisting of a recreation center, senior center, auditorium and other offerings, including retail space for lease. A video representation of the future development was played during the April 28 gathering.

Not long after, in early May, it was announced by VEA that Husted had given notice to the board that he was retiring, effective immediately. In a news release from VEA on May 4, John Maurer, president of Valley’s board of directors, stated that Husted had notified the board of his decision by way of a letter to the board.

Plans for the Center project are on the drawing board.

In an interview with a reporter from the Pahrump Valley Times on May 25, Evans said that a community leadership team, comprised of several community leaders, is working on, what was dubbed “The Center” at the annual meeting.

“It was the dream that they put video representations around,” Evans said. “It all looks good. I wouldn’t say that it’s in its final form. It’s probably just very preliminary.”

The intent of showcasing the center at VEA’s annual meeting “was to show progress toward creating that center,” Evans said. The project is still in developmental stages, according to Evans.

“The leadership committee continues to meet on a weekly basis,” she said. “We have staff that are participating in those regular meetings and contributing.”

In previous announcements by Husted, he noted that Valley was to donate some of the premium from the sale of its 230-kilovolt transmission system to the Valley Electric Charitable Foundation, funds designated for a community rec center on property adjacent to the VEA’s headquarters at 800 E. Highway 372.

In an announcement following VEA’s board of directors approval to sell the cooperative’s transmission system to Gridliance Holdco, a group of VEA ambassadors helped craft questions addressed to Husted. The cooperative printed the responses to those questions in its release, with one of them pertaining to how the monies from the sale would be distributed or invested by VEA.

“One other thing: $5 million of the premium will be donated to the Valley Electric Charitable Foundation designated for a community rec center on property adjacent to the VEA headquarters,” the response read. “The value of the land is an additional $5 million, equaling $10 million toward the project.”

Husted marked 2017 as a “historic” year in the months leading up to his retirement announcement. One of the reasons was the just over the record $60 million in net margins the cooperative recorded in its annual report, which were mostly due to the sale of its transmission system—a deal that closed in 2017.

As the center development continues to take shape, the co-op has moved in a different direction on its assistance with revitalizing the town’s iconic fountain at Calvada Boulevard and Highway 160, currently inoperable.

A hand-delivered letter, dated May 4, 2018, to the Nye County Board of Commissioners “stated that the desires of the community and those of the co-op were at loggerheads and because of this, the utility would no longer be moving forward with any fountain proposals,” according to a May 25, 2018 report in the Pahrump Valley Times.

The responsibility now lies on Nye County to rehabilitate the fountain, according to Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig, who made the announcement during a commission meeting in May.

Next steps

The swift change in leadership at Valley Electric left many in the community to question what led to Husted’s quick retirement announcement and what it means for the co-op going forward.

The announcement did lead to quick action by Evans, who was appointed into her interim role right after Husted’s retirement announcement to the board.

In the early weeks following Husted’s decision, Evans said she has “had to make a quick assessment in order to provide stability — both to our members and also employees.”

“A change of this nature, while unexpected, tends to make people feel concerned and anxious, so my first goal was to let employees know immediately that this is a change that we’re going to work through and we’ll keep moving forward on,” she said.

Evans joined the cooperative in 2017 as the executive vice president of operations and has also served as acting chief operating officer for Valley.

Evans said she was not privy to any discussions surrounding the retirement plans made by Husted, as the CEO’s relationship is directly with the board.

Evans is vying to stay in her current role, as VEA’s board of directors moves forward in the process of replacing her predecessor.

“By board policy, they implement what is called a search committee,” Evans said. “That process is underway, so that they can find the best candidate that will meet the needs of our members and the cooperative.”

Evans wasn’t sure how long the process would take but anticipated it could be several months before a final decision is made.

Evans said she is excited about her new role, and it’s given her a totally different focus.

“We have a very cohesive executive team, and they are doing a fantastic job with managing the business, and that’s certainly what a CEO looks for is a team that is well jelled, they communicate well, they’re participative in strategic sessions and they keep the business running, so that the CEO can focus on those higher-level initiatives,” she said.

Evans has worked at the executive level for the past 18 years. She has worked in several markets, including New Mexico, Texas, California and mostly recently Nevada. She is a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico and has held several roles in the utility industry over the years.

In Evans’ last role, which she held from 2011 to 2016, before coming to Valley Electric was at the Imperial Irrigation District in Indio, California. She was the manager of the distribution services and maintenance operations.

Prior to that, Evans held various roles from 2000 to 2010, in New Mexico and Texas. She worked as the director of utility operations for PNM, New Mexico’s largest utility provider, during that period, along with holding several management roles at Texas-New Mexico Power Co. in Texas.

Evans holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of New Mexico.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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