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Mayor Jenny Durkan Nominates Public Utility Industry Veteran Debra Smith to be Next General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light

Smith Has More Than Two Decades of Experience in the Pacific Northwest’s Public Utility Industry, Would Be the Second Woman to Lead Seattle City Light in its 108-Year History 


SEATTLE (August 28) – At Seattle City Light’s South Service Center in SoDo, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and leaders from the search committee announced she is nominating public utility industry veteran Debra Smith to be the next General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Seattle City Light. If confirmed by the City Council, Smith would be only the second woman to lead Seattle City Light in its 108-year history. 


“Debra is the right person at the right time to take the helm at Seattle City Light and to lead one of the nation’s largest public utilities that is critical to the day-to-day operations of this city, ensuring the delivery of affordable and reliable power to hundreds of thousands of businesses and residents. Just as importantly, Debra will help ensure City Light is a leading customer service provider and oversees a healthy workplace culture,” said Mayor Durkan. “With an administration in the other Washington that is trying to undo our climate and clean energy progress, it will be up to cities – and major public energy utilities like Seattle City Light – to lead the way and be an example for the rest of the world.” 


Mayor Durkan sought a leader that could continue to reliably deliver service, improve workplace culture and customer service, revamp the business model to create an affordable rate path, and position the utility to lead on climate change and in the new energy era. If confirmed, Smith will assume her duties on October 15th and be responsible for continuing to deliver on Seattle City Light’s goal to exceed customers’ expectations in producing and delivering environmentally responsible, safe, affordable, and reliable power at the nation’s greenest utility.


“I’m honored to be nominated as the next GM and CEO for Seattle City Light. I look forward to getting to know Seattle City Light from the inside, building relationships with my team members, listening to feedback from our community, and working collaboratively with City Council,” said Debra Smith. “I strongly believe in the power of people working together to improve the experience of our employees, customers, and community partners.”


Smith’s nomination comes after an extensive national search process that included candidates from across the United States. In February, Mayor Durkan announced a search committee that included 22 business, labor, non-profit, and community leaders, many with experience in clean energy and environmental justice. The search for a new General Manager and CEO also included an extensive community outreach process. After conducting interviews with applicants, the Search Committee submitted their recommendations for finalists to Mayor Durkan, who interviewed each finalist in mid-August.  


“The Mayor asked us to find a transformational leader ready to move Seattle City Light into the future, so we are thrilled that Mayor Durkan is nominating Debra Smith to be the next General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light. Debra will bring the financial expertise and leadership know-how to navigate the affordability and customer service challenges facing Seattle City Light. With over 22 years of experience in the Pacific Northwest power industry, we know Debra will be ready to lead City Light on day one,” said Search Committee Co-chairs Eileen V. Quigley, Cal Shirley, and Sharon L. Nelson.


“Now is the time we must rebuild trust with the public, with consumers, and with front-line workers. We need an active General Manager who can improve safety in the work environment, from safety on the lines to work environments free from harassment and intimidation,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “I look forward to hearing Debra Smith’s plan to address these continued concerns and her strategy to manage cost overruns, fix billing issues, and ensure Seattle City Light is a leader in the green energy economy. My colleagues and I will engage in a deliberative process to ensure the public and SCL workers have confidence in this new leader, and that we are set up for a productive and collaborative working relationship moving forward.” 


Smith has 22 years of public utility experience in the Pacific Northwest. Since 2013, she has served as the General Manager of Central Lincoln People’s Utility District, which provides electricity to residents of Oregon’s Central Coast.  Under her leadership, Central Lincoln PUD achieved its highest ever customer satisfaction ratings and transformed into a paperless utility. Prior to taking on the leadership role at Central Lincoln PUD, from 1996 to 2013 Smith served in a number of roles, including Assistant General Manager, at Eugene Water & Electric Board, a publicly-owned water and electricity utility. 


In addition to her work in the utility industry, Smith also serves on a number of community and non-profit organizations, including the Northwest Requirements Utilities board of directors, the Public Power Council, and the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee.