By Maria Saporta
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
In another significant leadership change, Georgia Power Co.’s board on Wednesday accepted the retirement of President and CEO Michael Garrett and named W. Paul Bowers as his successor starting Jan. 1.
Bowers became Atlanta-based Georgia Power’s chief operating officer since Aug. 13, a move that signaled that it was only a matter of when, not if, he would step into Garrett’s shoes.
The transition at Georgia Power is occurring almost simultaneously as a transition underway at its parent, Southern Co. (NYSE: SO). David Ratcliffe, chairman and CEO of Southern Co., announced this summer he would retire Dec. 1. Thomas Fanning will become chairman and CEO of the Southern Co. at that time.
That means that two top jobs at the Atlanta-based utility holding company — Southern’s CEO and Georgia Power’s CEO — will have new leaders in place by the end of the year. Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Co., serves 2.3 million customers in 155 of Georgia’s 159 counties.
Although it is unusual for the conservative utility company to have two key leadership transitions within a month of each other, Southern Co. and Georgia Power are known for carefully grooming its executives.
Bowers, 53, is no exception.
A Pensacola, Fla., native, Bowers joined the Southern Co.’s Gulf Power in 1979 in a marketing role. In his 31-year career at Southern Co., Bowers has had a number of jobs within the system.
From 1990 to 1998, Bowers headed Georgia Power’s marketing and sales organizations, becoming senior vice president in 1995. Then in 1998, Bowers became president and CEO of South Western Electricity PLC, a former Southern Co. subsidiary based in the United Kingdom.
After two-and-a-half years working abroad, Bowers was named president of Southern Co. Generation in Birmingham, Ala. He served in that role from 2001 to 2008, when he oversaw fossil and hydro generation, fleet operations, research and environmental affairs, engineering and construction services, and the company’s competitive generation subsidiary, Southern Power.
Then in 2008, Bowers returned to Atlanta to serve as Southern Co.’s chief financial officer and chief risk officer. That job previously had been held by Fanning.
“Paul’s experience and leadership have been key to maintaining consistency, stability and long-term success throughout our company,” Fanning said in a statement. “Mike Garrett led Georgia Power during periods of sustained growth and economic challenges. We are grateful for his service.”
Garrett said Bowers “had done a super job” in his previous roles with the company and that his people skills would serve him well as Georgia Power’s CEO. In his new role, Bowers will instantaneously become one of the most influential executives in Georgia.
Since Aug. 13, Bowers has been an understudy of Garrett at Georgia Power.
“I turned everything over to him,” Garrett said. “From day one, I told the management team they reported to him.”
Going forward, Garrett said he will be available if Bowers needs support.
“But at the same time,” Garrett said, “we have always had an unwritten rule that old CEOs don’t get in the way.”
Garrett said that in his retirement, he plans to spend more time with his 10 grandchildren. He also plans to continue serving on the boards of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority and Piedmont Healthcare.
Bowers currently serves on the boards of Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited and e3 Partners Ministry. He also serves on the board of advisors of the University of Alabama School of Engineering. And he also is a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s energy policy council.