By Rich Heidorn Jr.
CARY, N.C. — RTO Insider the publication has lost its wittiest voice. RTO Insider the company has lost its centrifugal force, its welcome wagon, its sage, its ultimate team player and certainly part of its soul.
Ted Caddell, RTO Insider’s longest-serving staffer — and the voice of our daily emails and frequently our social media postings — passed away overnight Tuesday, hours after helping to cover the ISO Summit here. He was 56.
Ted, who formerly lived in Wilmington, Del., and Charlottesville, Va., moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., about five years ago, following his companion, Leslie. He picked me and RTO Insider co-founder Merry Eisner up from Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Monday night. We then ate dinner with him and Leslie in Chapel Hill, where he told us how he would not eat shrimp that wasn’t North Carolina wild — no farm-raised seafood for him!
I ordered the North Carolina shrimp, and was not disappointed.
On Tuesday, he took photographs and reported on the opening session of the RTO Insider/SAS ISO Summit with PJM CEO Andy Ott, SPP CEO Nick Brown and former FERC Commissioner Tony Clark.
We expected him Wednesday morning for the second day of the summit and were concerned when he did not appear. While I was moderating the first panel of the morning, Merry got a phone call informing us of his passing.
Merry informed me of the news during a break, and I was on stage for a second panel when my phone rang with a call from Charlottesville, where I knew his brother Ray — a bandleader for whom Ted had previously worked as a roadie — lived. I handed the phone to Merry to take the call.
Since the Summit ended, I have been back in my hotel room, letting the tears flow and trying to pull myself together enough to help compose a tribute worthy of the man.
I have known Ted since the late 1990s, when I was covering electric deregulation for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Ted, a former reporter for The News-Journal in Wilmington, was a spokesman for what was then Conectiv Energy, a Delaware-based subsidiary of Pepco Holdings Inc. There are good, bad and mediocre spokespeople, and Ted was undoubtedly one of the best. Funny, personable, self-deprecating. Even if it wasn’t a big story, I never remember a day that wasn’t better for having talked to Ted.
We hired Ted at RTO Insider in January 2014, less than a year after our launch. But I wouldn’t actually meet Ted in person until about a year later, when he was in Wilmington visiting his daughter Nicole and newborn granddaughter, Charlotte.
Ironically, as we joked over dinner Monday, we had covered the same story for our competing newspapers in 1996: the execution of Billy Bailey in Delaware, the last hanging in the U.S.
At RTO Insider, we have made it a priority to hire reporters near the headquarters of all of the ISOs and RTOs in the U.S. In Chapel Hill, Ted was nowhere near any of them. But he nonetheless made himself immediately indispensable as the first editor of our Briefs columns and as the lead reporter on many breaking news stories. He was particularly knowledgeable about generation, having done public relations for Exelon’s generation unit after leaving Conectiv.
As he wrote for his bio on our About Us page, Ted had an English literature degree from the University of Delaware, “which may explain why he’s also worked as a commercial fisherman, a roofer, landscaper and spent three years as a roadie for a swing band and orchestra.”
In January, when we launched our daily email alerts, he was our voice, and he had an immediate impact. Some people, frankly, did not appreciate his witty “lead-in” and preferred to go right to the summaries of our latest content. A handful of people were offended when he got a bit risqué or political.
They were in a decided minority. More common were comments like these:
- I read five or six energy newsletters a day, which are typically quite boring. The daily opening commentary of RTO Insider’s newsletter is incredibly entertaining and I look forward to reading it every day. — Nick Esch, Smart Electric Power Alliance
- Ted, thanks for really taking the “readability” factor up a notch! I look forward to your musings every day. — Joe Leingang, fuel & transport superintendent, Basin Electric Power Cooperative.
- I just wanted to say that I truly enjoy Ted Caddell’s summary emails each day. I always love the random other news he provides. It’s quite hilarious. — Jen Clements, Xcel Energy
- I love the changes that RTO Insider has made this year. I look forward to reading the quips and punchy, but newsworthy, introductions each day. I also enjoy that it’s not always related to our industry — a teaser of sorts before getting into the day’s news. — Tia Elliott, NRG Energy
- Hey — I don’t know who comes up with these little nuggets at the beginning of the Insider. But I enjoy them tremendously. Thank you! — Marguerite Wagner, ITC Holdings
And here were the reflections of some of his colleagues:
From Bill Opalka, our former NYISO/ISO-NE correspondent, who just left us for a job with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority:
Newsrooms are places that are full of characters, and in his day, Ted must surely had been one. He always had a quip at the ready and was full of oddball insights about the world, life and even the news. Although we were based 600 miles apart and never met face-to-face, I felt like I knew him better than most of the colleagues with whom I shared office space. He was that open and had a killer wit that got us through any crisis too.
But underneath the jokester façade, Ted was a serious newsman always looking for the next story and ready to jump in when colleagues were busy chasing other news. He’d often call with the latest scoop: “Did you hear about the Massachusetts pipeline? What’s going on at Indian Point?” And most of the time I’d reply, “Thanks, Ted, I’m already on it,” and he’d seem a little crushed that he couldn’t help.
Ted, you’ll be missed.
From Julie Gromer, our current Briefs editor, who joined us in September 2016:
The impact that Ted had on my life in such a short time period is pretty incredible.
Words cannot express my sadness. When I joined RTO Insider, Ted was the first person to reach out to welcome me to the team — and to offer any assistance that I needed. Over the past seven months, he became my online friend — checking in every day to see how I was doing, sharing news of his family and grandchildren, laughing about world events, and always offering encouragement — both in my professional and personal life.
I feel honored to have known Ted. I will miss his friendship, his “can do” attitude and his unique brand of wit.
From Tom Kleckner, our SPP and ERCOT correspondent, based in Little Rock, Ark.:
I never met Ted in person (though our paths may have crossed at one point), but I felt like I did. That may be all you need to say about Ted.
We did share direct messages and Facebook posts, and had several long phone conversations. I know I would have enjoyed Ted’s company. Check out his Facebook photos. Unless he was acting on stage, he always had a smile on his face — and an unruly head of hair that apparently didn’t get along with caps.
Ted’s writing reveals that same good nature. He was always looking for the off-beat stories that helped show what our world is really about.
From account executive Marge Gold:
As I sit here with my eyes swelled up, it is hard to see clearly to even type. But, clearly Ted made me smile every time I saw him on our weekly video calls, with his Starbucks in hand. He was a unique man, that I will not soon forget.
From Michael Brooks, our production/copy editor and D.C. reporter:
Ted was just as friendly as he was funny — and he was hilarious. Unfortunately, I mostly experienced that friendliness online. The Internet enables a company like ours to function even though we live in different parts of the country, but because of that, I was only able to ever meet Ted in-person once. I am truly saddened that I will not be able to have another laugh with him that isn’t online.
Suzanne Herel, our former PJM correspondent, recalled his motto:
“Every day’s a holiday, every meal’s a feast.” I miss you dreadfully, Ted.
From MISO correspondent Amanda Durish Cook:
Whenever I approached Ted with a technical question, he’d make sure to weave some humor into the explanation. He just made it delightful. I always enjoyed collecting news stories to pass to him for the repartee.
From CAISO/WECC correspondent Robert Mullin:
With your co-workers spread across the country, you can miss out on some aspects of easy friendship that can develop with people you happen to share space with seven or eight hours a day. Ted was someone who sought to close that distance. When I started with RTO Insider, he would call just to check in, see how things were going. There was usually nothing specific to talk about, and during those conversations I learned a little about his life, his partner, Leslie, his kids, and his two young granddaughters Mayble and Charlotte — just a bit younger than my own son.
Let me direct my last comments to you, Mayble and Charlotte: your grandfather was sharp-witted, blunt, warm-hearted — irrepressible in his opinions, but thoughtful. Salt of the earth. I wish I could’ve had more time to get to know him better. I wish you could’ve, too. I hope you carry a little bit of him with you into the future.
Ted often returned to Wilmington to visit his daughter, Nicole Wample, and his beloved granddaughters, Mayble, 3, and Charlotte, who turns 2 on Friday. He is also survived by his partner, Leslie Udry; his mother, Sally, of Avon Park, Fla.; his older brother, Ray, of Charlottesville, Va.; and his son, Michael, of Philadelphia.
Memorial arrangements are pending. We will update this story when they are available.
“He loved his job,” said Ray. “It was good for him.”
He was good for all of us too.