February 16, 2022 – Houston-based executive search firm Preng & Associates recently assisted in the recruitment of Brandie Ekren, executive director of strategic planning and development for the Lansing (MI) Board of Water & Light as the next executive director of Traverse City Light & Power (TLCP), also in Michigan. Consultant Mark Ciolek led the assignment. Ms. Ekren’s successor, Tim Arends, announced his resignation last summer. Karla Myers-Beman, TCLP’s controller, is serving as the utility’s interim executive director. Ms. Ekren begins her new role on March 21. “I think it’s great news, both for Traverse City and TCLP to have such an exceptional candidate apply and ultimately be selected, so it’s just a great indicator of what an attractive place Traverse City is, and as a utility, that Brandie [Ekren] wants to lead us,” said TLCP chairman Paul Heiberger, as quoted by the Traverse City Record-Eagle. “My dedication to our success as one of the most progressive electric utilities is powered by my passion for our industry and its potential,” said Ms. Ekren. “We will positively impact the industry together.”
“We are very pleased to have assisted the Traverse City Light and Power Board in attracting and hiring such an inspirational and innovative leader who will enable the utility to achieve their industry-leading clean energy goals,” said Mr. Ciolek.
TCLP board members voted unanimously last month to approve Ms. Ekren and recently finalized her contract. Her salary will be $199,725 a year, plus a one-time $10,000 bonus for relocation expenses, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle. The agreement, which has no set expiration, also includes up to $2,500 a month for up to six months for temporary rental and housing assistance.
That base salary falls on the higher end of what other utilities around TCLP’s size pay their top executives, Mr. Heiberger told the newspaper, citing an American Public Power Association comparison. The amount reflects the quality of Ms. Ekren as a candidate, he said, adding that the pay also fits the role’s growing complexity as the utility grows its fiberoptic internet service, and Ms. Ekren’s salary history with Lansing Board of Water & Light.
The job listing was viewed by nearly 4,000 potential applicants, with “several hundred” applying, said Mr. Heiberger, as cited in The Ticker, a Traverse City digital news outlet. Preng & Associates screened and narrowed the candidates down to about a dozen finalists. An ad hoc committee of TCLP board members then chose four finalists for interviews.
The city-owned utility wanted its new leader to ideally have 15-plus years of “progressively responsible experience” in the utility/energy/municipal field, eight years of management experience, and a required bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience, with a master’s degree preferred, said The Ticker. The utility also wanted candidates to have a collaborative leadership style, a commitment to being a regional leader in clean energy, business acumen, communication skills, and honesty and integrity, among other qualifications.
Ms. Ekren served in her role in Lansing for three years. Before that, she was an associate attorney and then general counsel for the Lansing utility over the previous 15 years. She holds a law degree from Michigan State University College of Law.
Preng & Associates, founded in 1980, is a retainer-based, international executive search firm specializing solely in the energy industry. The firm’s experience spans the entire energy value chain – from the well head to the wall socket. Its subsector verticals have specific expertise in oil and gas (upstream, midstream, and downstream), oilfield equipment and services, power and utilities, renewables, engineering and construction and industrials. The recruiting outfit has conducted more than 3,800 engagements for over 800 companies and placed highly qualified individuals for board, executive management, and professional positions in 91 countries, according to the firm.
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Mr. Ciolek leads the utility/power practice at Preng & Associates. His search practice is focused on electric and gas utilities, independent generators, renewable energy, and industrial/services companies supporting the utilities and power sector. Mr. Ciolek combines 12 years of senior-level search experience with an extensive knowledge base and network developed during his prior 25 years of industry and management consulting. He conducts a wide variety of senior level assignments, including CEO/president, COO and CFO roles. His functional search experience includes operations, engineering and construction, business, and project development, regulatory, strategy and IT.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media