28_Mary Powell

Applying Energy


As the blackout spread across the Northeast on August 14, Mary Powell rushed to her control center and was relieved to see that customers of her Vermont electric utility still had power. The energy at Green Mountain Power hasn’t always been so positive. But five years after Powell brought her entrepreneurial spirit to the near- bankrupt utility, it has been recognized as one of the most efficient in the country.

From Mary’s original entry:

Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.

Within weeks of Mary Powell’s arrival at Green Mountain Power in 1998, the company received a rate order that sent it into a downward financial spiral, with the stock value and ratings dropping drastically. With bankruptcy perilously close, Mary led drastic actions into waters uncharted by traditional electric utilities.

What was your moment of truth?

Mary drove a major turnaround that included dramatic reinvention of the company’s culture through implementing over 600 organizational changes in six months. While most people would have tried to save costs by cutting services, Mary established a vision of becoming a premier utility, first in Vermont, then in the country.

What were the results?

Green Mountain Power’s stock has tripled from its low of $6.75 to $ 22.50 today, Business Week ranked it 25th among the small-cap top 50 companies, and it has become one of the most efficient utilities in the country with one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings. The culture change and progressive facility design at Green Mountain Power has made it an employer of choice, with a creative, energized and excited workforce.

What’s your parting tip?

“Make your vision clear, move forward quickly and passionately, but don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions and for God’s sake keep your eye on your customers.”