Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Update: The word “interim” was removed from CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams’ title as the board of trustees unanimously selected her on Monday as the new leader of the public utility.
Her starting base salary will be $415,000 said board Chair Ed Kelley, and further contract details will be worked out in the coming week.
“Paula has won this position, it wasn’t handed to her,” Kelley said during his remarks to the board. “She has proven to me that she has what it takes.”
The announcement concludes a nine-month national search that began after CEO Doyle Beneby Jr. resigned last September.
Gold-Williams and Kelley spoke to media after the board meeting. Click here to read more.
Originally published on Sunday, July 24:
Beneby stayed until Oct. 31 and Gold-Williams was named acting CEO on Nov. 1. She was not considered a candidate for the position at the outset because of her lack of experience on the power generation side of the business, but as the search extended and no viable replacement for Beneby emerged from the outside, her position grew stronger.
The CPS Energy board is set to meet Monday at 1 p.m. The meeting is open to the public. Click here to review the agenda. The board consists of four appointed trustees, each of whom represents a distinct geographic quadrant of the city. Mayor Ivy Taylor serves as an ex-officio member of the board. Trustees will meet in an executive session Monday to review contract terms for Gold-Williams, and then emerge to conduct the vote in open session.
Executive compensation has been a key issue of the debate among board members as well as sectors of the community who oppose highly compensated public servants. Beneby, who held the position for five years, earned a $500,000 base salary at the time of his departure and was able to earn as much as 50% more in incentive compensation. His compensation package was often compared to that of City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who has held her position for more than a decade and makes a base salary of $425,000 with incentive compensation that can reach $100,000.
Sources with knowledge of the work performed by executive search firm Korn Ferry International, which was hired to conduct the CPS Energy national search, said the firm recruited a couple of highly desirable candidates who wanted better compensation packages than the one given to Beneby. The most talented energy executives, the same sources said, are working in the merchant utility sector where senior executive income is in the low seven-figure range, and do not want to take a major pay cut to work for a municipally owned energy utility.
In recent weeks, the CPS Energy board has weighed Gold-Williams’ candidacy against a single outside candidate from California who recently came to San Antonio as a finalist to interview with various community leaders. Only then was it learned that the individual had left his executive position at Pacific Gas & Electric and was no longer employed at the time of his visit here. That was a strike against him.
In the end, trustees concluded the search had gone on long enough, and a consensus was reached to offer the position to Gold-Williams, a 12-year CPS Energy veteran. Gold-Williams has served as the utility’s chief financial officer since 2009 and has held a number of senior financial and administrative executive positions, but she has no background in the “power” or “poles and wires” side of the business, nor in renewable energy.
Her compensation package is expected to be less than what the City is currently paying Sculley.
There was some talk of engaging Beneby in a new round of talks about returning as CEO as it became known that he did not go to work for Chicago-based New Generation Power International (NGPI), which named him as its new CEO at the time of his resignation in September.
Beneby has not given a reason for not taking the position, although some believe his highly publicized talks with the board in April about returning to the CEO position might have led to the end of his planned CEO role with NGPI. Those talks unraveled, sources said, when City Councilman Joe Krier (D9) protested the terms of his rehiring, which would have allowed Beneby to serve as a senior advisor to NGPI. Krier’s opposition, in turn, is said to have led Mayor Ivy Taylor to oppose the terms of his rehiring.
In the end, there was little political appetite for opening a new round of talks with Beneby even though CPS Energy Board Chair Ed Kelley and other trustees view him as a once-in-a-generation visionary.
Shahzad Qasim is now listed as CEO of NGPI, although the company’s website does not contain any press releases about Beneby not taking the position or of Qasim’s hiring.
Gold-Williams succession into the CEO position will create a unique set of circumstances in San Antonio unmatched in any other major U.S. city. Four women will now hold top public governing positions in the city: Mayor Taylor and City Manager Sculley, newly-appointed San Antonio Economic Development Foundation CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, and Gold-Williams at CPS Energy. Taylor and Gold-Williams are Black and Saucedo-Herrera is Hispanic. That kind of gender and minority representation appears to be unmatched in any other city with a population of more than one million.
Managing Editor Iris Dimmick contributed to this article.
Top image: CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams is congratulated before the official announcement of her position at Monday’s CPS Energy board meeting. Photo by Scott Ball.