By Tom Kleckner
DALLAS – SPP members elected 40-year industry veteran Mark Crisson to the RTO’s Board of Directors on Tuesday, expanding the board to 10 members.
After nearly 30 years with Tacoma Public Utilities in Washington state, Crisson served as CEO of the American Public Power Association (APPA) from 2007 to 2014 in D.C. He was interim general manager of Kentucky’s Paducah Power System and deputy general manager with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority before retiring in 2016.
Crisson told RTO Insider he was attracted to SPP’s stakeholder-driven culture, which he said is similar to APPA’s emphasis on its members.
“At APPA, we would hold up SPP’s core principle of stakeholder focus as an example of how other organizations should run things,” Crisson said. “The belief is having customers and members driving the decisions and developing solutions. It takes time, but it’s better doing it that way than dealing with problems later.”
He said he was excited by the opportunity to stay involved in the electric industry, while also enjoying his retirement.
“I bring a lot of management experience and customer experience,” he said. “I’ll try to be cognizant as a board member to offer support and guidance, but not set specific direction. I hope I can provide meaningful, high-quality technical advice.”
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Crisson served in the Pacific nuclear submarine fleet from 1970 to 1975. He joined Tacoma Public Utilities after completing his service and earned a master’s in business administration from Pacific Lutheran University in 1981.
Golden Spread Electric Cooperative’s Mike Wise, himself a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, said teasingly, “It’s nice to have another academy grad in leadership, though it’s not necessarily the right one.”
SPP CEO Nick Brown said Crisson “brings a distinct and rare set of skills and experiences to our group of directors, and we look forward to benefiting from his insights as we ramp up our engagement in national energy policy discussion.”
Crisson helped lead Tacoma through the 2000/01 Western Energy Crisis before becoming chair of APPA’s board in 2003 after 10 years as a director. He centered his work on climate change legislation, federal environmental regulations, analysis of ISO/RTO wholesale power markets, grid reliability and cybersecurity. He was recognized with APPA’s first annual Mark Crisson Leadership and Managerial Excellence Award when he left the organization in 2015.
FERC in August 2015 approved SPP’s request to expand its board to up to 10 people, with a minimum of seven. The RTO said the expansion was to increase the “flexibility” of director succession planning, “with due consideration given to director tenure, knowledge sharing and risk management.”
Two of the three new positions were filled with last January’s election of Bruce Scherr and Graham Edwards. (See SPP Adds Ex-MISO CEO, NERC Trustee to Board.)
The Russell Reynolds Associates search firm also identified Crisson as a candidate during the initial search. He was interviewed again in November by the Corporate Governance Committee, which represents each of the membership sectors.
As he did last January, Westar Energy’s Kelly Harrison urged the membership and SPP to continue to improve the board’s diversity. Long-time director Phyllis Bernard is the only woman on the SPP board, while she and Joshua W. Martin III are the only two members of a minority.
“I know it’s a challenge, because those folks might be in high demand,” Harrison said.