When Steve Donkersloot announced he was stepping down as general manager of Lowell Light & Power, the utility’s board undertook a national search to find a replacement. They found their top pick for the position in Charlie West, a veteran of public utilities who has spent the past eight years working with the Paris Board of Public Utilities in Tennessee.
“It really started when my wife and I decided to explore what options were out there,” West explains. The couple have two children, ages 5 and 2, love the outdoors and were interested in settling in a community that would fit their family well. Coming from a public power background, West also knew he wanted to continue working with a municipal utility.
West found his match here in Lowell, and Donkersloot says Lowell Light & Power customers will be in good hands with the new general manager. The two men have been working together since the start of the month to get West up to speed on utility operations in advance of Donkersloot’s last day, which was November 20. Now, West looks forward to continuing the work of his predecessor in ensuring Lowell has a world-class electric company.
Fan of Public Power Model
In Tennessee, West served as the vice president of business and strategic development for the Paris Board of Public Utilities. “A lot of my job was to be sure that the utility was always looking toward the future,” he says.
He was in charge of overseeing administration and strategic initiatives for public utilities in the community. While approximately 10,000 people live in Paris, its public utilities serve approximately 21,000 electric customers as well as 5,000 water customers and 4,000 wastewater customers.
While Lowell Light & Power has a smaller service footprint, West will be doing the same-forward thinking here as he did in Tennessee. As technologies and customer needs change so too must the utility.
In West’s opinion, the public power model is the best model to provide responsive service. “One of the best things about a public utility, like Lowell Light & Power, is that we are part of the community we serve,” he says. While large corporate utilities may rely on workers from outside the area to make decisions, public utilities are run by people who live in or near a community and understand its unique strengths, challenges and needs.
Excited to be in Lowell
Arriving in early November, West couldn’t be happier with his new home. “Lowell really hit all the checkboxes of the type of community we were looking for,” he says. “[I’ve] been thoroughly impressed.”
He is equally as impressed with Lowell Light & Power and its staff. “I would put this staff up against any staff I’ve ever worked for,” he says, calling the skillset of everyone, across all positions, “tremendous.”
West says his goal for now is to ensure that the transition in general managers doesn’t cause any delays or hiccups to ongoing projects. He notes that Donkersloot has done an excellent job of positioning the utility, and his goal is to continue and build upon that work.
While West’s wife and children are still in Tennessee, they should arrive prior to the new year. He looks forward to sharing with them everything he has already discovered about their new town as they settle into life in Lowell.