Community Engagement

Remembering Public Power Giants

Tragically, three incredible public power leaders have passed away in the last few months. All three were tireless advocates for public power and were working on our behalf up until their untimely deaths. Sharon Staz of Maine, Bob Lynch of Arizona, and Bill Gallagher of Vermont (lately of Florida) are these public power leaders, may they rest in peace.

Sharon passed away this summer. While retired from Kennebunk Light and Power, she was still heavily involved in the community and had just this year played a leadership role in pushing for legislation in Maine that would have municipalized the investor-owned utility in the state (a bill that passed the legislature but was vetoed by the governor). In fact, she was in touch with the APPA team about that effort just days before her death. Her career was filled with accolades and successes, but I always remember her steady hand as the Board Chair of APPA and her keen political acumen.

Bob spent his last days fighting cancer and continuing to prevent bad ideas involving the federal power marketing administrations from taking hold. As the long-time executive director of the Irrigation and Electrical Districts of Arizona (IEDA), as well as a principal in his eponymous law firm, Bob’s legal mind and political skills not only helped Arizona’s public power community, but the nation’s. He became an expert on cybersecurity law and how it applies to public power utilities. As a result of his many years of service and support to public power, he won various APPA awards and was a stalwart member of APPA’s Advisory Committee, the critical group of state and regional public power association executive directors. I will remember his pride in his family, in being a Marine in his younger years, and in showing off his beloved Arizona.

Last week, we were informed about the passing of Bill Gallagher, another lifelong public power advocate and leader. Bill was a New Englander through and through, from his accent to his straightforward demeanor to his devotion to the Red Sox. He had also been the chair of APPA’s Board of Directors, the long-time chair of the APPA CEO Climate Change and Generation Policy Task Force, and a long-time representative of public power on the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s Member Representative Committee. He also served as a long-time board and executive committee member of the North American Energy Standards Board. In all these roles, Bill had the interests of energy consumers at the forefront of his efforts. Even in his retirement from the Vermont Public Power Supply Association, Bill continued to represent transmission-dependent utilities as a consultant for the Transmission Access Policy Study (TAPS) group. And he continued to dedicate his considerable talent to advocating on TAPS issues until just before his death.

These three public power advocates were very different people from different backgrounds and interests, politically and otherwise. But they shared a passion for the mission of public power – its focus on providing the essential service of electricity to all customers in a highly reliable and affordable manner while responding to the discrete needs of local communities. As the families and friends of these three incredible people mourn their passing and celebrate their many accomplishments, I hope the public power community left behind will learn from Sharon, Bob, and Bill that individual efforts matter tremendously in the fight to protect the interests of electric customers. In so doing, I’m confident that we will find the next generation of public power giants who can take pride in and build on the accomplishments of these three.