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CU’s Miller sets exit strategy

The Board of Public Utilities now works to replace its highest-paid general manager

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Scott Miller, City Utilities of Springfield’s general manager since 2011, is set to retire by year’s end.

Miller, the ninth general manager since the municipal utility company’s start in 1945, said his final day on the job would be Dec. 20. He started at CU in 2002 as general manager of electric supply before succeeding John Twitty as general manager in 2011.

Now 61 years old, Miller said his retirement plan has been under consideration for several years, noting he’s kept CU executives apprised.

“I have been quite open for the past three or four years that I am going to retire someday,” he said. “Quite frankly, there is not a perfect time. There’s always something going on. It’s just a matter of trying to find that gap.”

When promoted to general manager eight years ago, Miller signed a one-year contract worth $295,000, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. He’s now the highest paid GM in the utility company’s history. According to CU officials, Miller’s current one-year contract pays $470,815.

In the search for the next GM, officials say the salary range is $285,185-$484,815.

Prior to deciding to retire, Miller said he wanted to make sure the leadership team was highly qualified and very experienced.

“We’re there in that regard,” he said, adding the most recent changes to the leadership team was Dwayne Fulk as associate general manager-general counsel, and Stephanie O’Connor, associate general manager-administration and information technology. Both started in their positions in December 2017. O’Connor has worked for CU since 1992, while Fulk came on board after a 25-year career practicing law.

“You can leave when things are really good or you can leave when things are not so good,” he said. “Things are really good at the utility right now.”

He pointed to Standard & Poor’s affirmation of CU’s AA+ long-term outstanding revenue bond rating as an indicator of the utility’s stable financial situation. Coupled with the leadership team and the community focus of the 11-member Board of Public Utilities, Miller said he had confidence to walk away later this year.

“When you put all the pieces together, it’s the right time for my family and I,” he said.

Critical decision
Joe Reynolds, chairman of the CU board, said Miller is known for his effective planning. He said Miller told the board about his exit plan about 18 months ago.

“We were absolutely prepared,” Reynolds said. “He’s put a lot of time and thought into it.”

A search committee has been formed, though Reynolds said it has yet to formally meet. Reynolds and fellow board members Denise Silvey, Rob Rector, Jennifer Wilson and Jeff Childs plan to meet after the next scheduled board meeting June 27. The selection of the next GM will ultimately be decided by a board vote, he added.

The committee will take a very systematic approach to the national search, he said, with plans to consider internal and external candidates. Its initial meeting will start assessing the job description to determine if changes are necessary in regard to expectations of experience and duties.

“We want to have an exhaustive process,” he said, adding there’s no timetable yet.

The committee will determine candidates, Reynolds said, with a likely semifinal and final round for interviews with the full board.

Before Miller was tabbed as GM in 2011, the CU Board of Public Utilities held a public forum to introduce the three finalists. Reynolds said a similar process might be in store because transparency is important for deciding on the position.

The board hopes it can name a successor before Miller retires.

“It would be wonderful to have someone selected and have a transition period,” Reynolds said. “While not mandatory, it’s a good process to have that happen.”

Project progress
The day-to-day management of the community-owned provider of electricity, natural gas, water, broadband and transit services has no slow down period, Miller said.

CU’s 2019 budget is $558 million, and the 2020 budgeting process underway. Utility spokesman Joel Alexander said officials aim to have the budget approved by the board in August for reading and passage by Springfield City Council in September.

Among ongoing projects in the budget, nearly 10 miles of water mains and about 13 miles of gas mains are being replaced. Those will be finished before year’s end, Miller said.

At Blackman Water Treatment Plant, an $18.9 million project that allows the plant to hold 10 million additional gallons of treated water in reserve for use in Springfield’s water system is now complete and in service, Alexander said.

In addition, he said CU crews are in the final stages of putting an elevated water storage tank into service near the intersection of farm roads 197 and 116 in the eastern service territory. The $2.8 million project is designed to provide additional water pressure, reserve capacity and fire suppression needs.

Both water projects were big strategic goals to complete this year, Miller said, with the goal his successor can avoid critical decisions upon taking over.

Reynolds said Miller won’t be easy to replace.

“In some ways, he’s given us a template for what we want in a new candidate,” Reynolds said. “Scott set the bar really high.”

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