A familiar face will take the helm at Morrisville Water & Light next spring.
The municipal utility’s board of trustees has hired Penny Jones, the company’s longtime financial controller and office manager, as the next general manager.
Jones will replace Craig Myotte, who will work through the end of March, then retire.
“I am excited about the opportunity to take on the role of general manager at Morrisville Water & Light,” Jones told the News & Citizen. “During my time as the financial controller, I have built a wide range of relationships with regulators, various electric utility personnel, and other key business associates that will help me succeed in my new role.”
The utility began searching for Myotte’s replacement after he told the trustees earlier this year that he planned to retire. Six people were interviewed for the job, and Jones was one of two finalists for the position.
She was the only staff member at the utility to apply to succeed Myotte, and will become general manager April 1.
“I am confident Penny will be able to effectively lead Morrisville Water & Light through the challenges and opportunities in front of the organization,” Myotte said. “Penny has the willingness and ability to learn beyond the financial and office duties to attain a firm grasp of the duties performed in the electric, water and sewer services we provide.”
Jones has been the controller at the Morrisville utility since 2006.
Jones was also a longtime member of the Elmore School Board, served on the short-lived Elmore-Morristown School Board, and is now a member of the Lamoille South school board that oversees schools in Elmore, Morristown and Stowe following a state-ordered merger of the Elmore-Morristown and Stowe school districts.
“It has been my pleasure to serve as the general manager for the last 13 years,” Myotte said. After he retires, he hopes to visit all 50 states.
“Morrisville Water & Light will be in good hands with Penny at the helm,” he said.
Leading the way forward
As the utility’s controller since 2006, Jones has overseen payroll and the finances of all three of Morrisville’s sewer, water and electricity departments. As office manager, she also headed the utility’s customer service and human resources departments.
“It was kind of all-encompassing,” she said. She has also been involved with several special projects at the utility.
As general manager, she will take on several ongoing challenges that face Morrisville Water & Light.
A long, drawn-out legal battle over how the utility operates its three hydroelectric facilities is drawing to a close, and upgrades will likely be needed to keep all three dams viable and safe.
And, the utility is in the midst of reordering its sewer billing rates and resolving capacity issues at the sewage treatment plant.
But Jones has been a member of the utility’s management team for years, giving her plenty of background and experience in those issues.
“As with any small municipal utility, the management team members need to be involved in many issues that come before us,” Myotte said. Jones “has excellent communication skills and will bring a new perspective to the challenges Morrisville Water & Light faces.”
“My experience and involvement in the day-to-day activities, as well as special projects, have given me the knowledge needed to lead the utility into the future,” Jones said. “I look forward to tackling the challenges we face and positioning the organization for continued success.”
Myotte sees the continuing struggle to keep Morrisville’s three hydro facilities financially viable and safe as one of the bigger challenges, now that the Vermont Supreme Court has issued a ruling on new state-imposed operating practices at the dams.
“That’s still going to gobble up some more time,” Myotte said.
The utility has been dealing with capacity concerns at its sewer plant for roughly two years, Jones added, and the new billing system — with an upcharge for customers putting a lot of solid waste into the sewer system — will go into effect on April 1, the same day she becomes general manager.
During his final months at Morrisville Water & Light, Myotte aims to work with the staff to prioritize capital improvement projects the utility could undertake in the next five years.
Jones will oversee capital improvements, along with plans to build two more solar facilities in town.
And, the utility may need to raise electricity rates in the next few years, she said, in large part because of the changes Morrisville is required to make in operating its three dams. The issues involve water flow and aquatic life, and the dams are likely to produce much less electricity than they do now.
“The impact of the hydro will be felt there,” Jones said.