‘Utility industry is in a time of tremendous change’

The utility industry is in a time of tremendous change, according to the American Public Power Association trainer Steve VanderMeer yesterday, and that includes getting the governing board more involved in decision-making on matters where staff can’t make those decisions.

“They are not operational decisions anymore; they are strategic decisions,” he said, during a two-day training that started yesterday with the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board and senior staff about governance issues.

VanderMeer just held a three-day training with CUC staff last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

VanderMeer is the senior vice president for planning and marketing of a company based in Fort Collins, Colorado, called Hometown Connections Inc., a national non-profit utility services organization.

VanderMeer is affiliated with the American Public Power Association, a national trade association of which CUC is a member.

In an interview, VanderMeer underscored the importance of the CUC board being knowledgeable about what is happening in the industry, about the capabilities of its own utility, about the people they serve, and an understanding of their needs and expectations.

In fact, it is important for the board to have a “deliberative and intentional conversation” about where CUC needs to be in the future, he said.

He pointed out that, during the two-day training with the CUC board and senior staff, they’re doing some basic governance as a non-profit governing board and meeting some of the expectations and requirements.

“We spent some time talking about priorities and where CUC sees itself…in the years ahead in order to continue to serve CNMI,” VanderMeer said.

He said they had a bit of strategic dialogue yesterday.

“We will be doing some more discussion later today and tomorrow on more issue on governance and how the governing board can be most effective in support of the utility in representing the interests of its customers,” VanderMeer said.

In last week’s training, VanderMeer spent time with 20 of the CUC staff talking about customer service and how it applies in the utility industry and what that means and why it is important.

“We had a lot of great discussions. I was really impressed with what the CUC staff is doing today. It is really very impressive what the utilities is doing,” he added.

CUC board treasurer Matthew Holley said the governance training is very helpful. “This is very good experience…for all of us, for understanding our roles as board members,” Holley said.

He said they also learned more about other utilities around the nation and how they relate to CUC.

CUC executive director Gary P. Camacho, who invited VanderMeer to hold the two trainings, said that yesterday and today’s training is board governance training.

Camacho said it is for the management, particularly himself and the deputy executive director, division managers from all three islands, board members, and the chief engineer.

“It is to update us on the latest utility information and how we are going be able to proceed forward,” he said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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