Powering Strong Communities

Public Power Leaders: Jolene Thompson

Jolene_ThompsonJolene Thompson has been with AMP since 1990, and was named its president and CEO in 2020. Before becoming president/CEO, she provided oversight of AMP’s government relations, communications, training, environmental affairs, sustainability initiatives, risk, insurance, strategic planning, member programs, and safety, environmental and North American Electric Reliability Corporation compliance activities. She also serves as the General Manager of the Municipal Energy Services Agency. She was Executive Director of the Ohio Municipal Electric Association in a dual role with her AMP position from 1997 to 2020.

Throughout her career, Thompson has worked closely with AMP members and advocated with state and federal policymakers on behalf of AMP and public power. Nationally, she is a member of the boards of The Energy Authority and Large Public Power Council. She served on the American Public Power Association Board of Directors from 2015 to 2022, including serving as Board Chair from 2020 to 2021. She also chaired the APPA Advisory Committee of State and Regional Associations and Legislative and Resolutions Committee. Having completed her terms on the APPA Board, she remains a member of the Board Nominating Committee. Thompson was previously a member of the Transmission Access Policy Study Group Board of Directors and sat on the Consumer Federation of America Board of Directors. Thompson’s exceptional leadership and dedication to public power has been recognized through two APPA awards — the Alex Radin Distinguished Service Award, APPA’s highest honor, in 2023, and the Harold Kramer-John Preston Personal Service Award in 2003.

How did you come to work in public power?

I grew up in a utility family. My father was a distribution engineer for the local investor-owned electric company, and my mother had been an operator for the local telephone company, so I was intrigued when I came across a job posting for a communications internship with AMP (then known as American Municipal Power-Ohio). I had recently graduated from Otterbein College (located in the public power community of Westerville, Ohio) with a degree in journalism and was seeking a position in corporate communications. At that time, in the late 1980s, it was rather difficult to break into that field, and I viewed a post-graduate internship as a strategic move to gain experience and help secure a full-time position down the road. I was hired by AMP and quickly became a passionate supporter of public power — which made for some interesting conversations with my father, who viewed the world from his 40 years of IOU work experience. My father ultimately grew to appreciate the attributes of public power, and it was gratifying to be able to talk shop with my parents.

Is there an achievement AMP has made under your leadership that typifies public power?

Throughout my 35 years with AMP, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work directly with our member community officials and witness their dedication to and focus on public service. I’ve always been proud to represent public power. One of the views that I share with new staff at AMP is how much job satisfaction can be derived from working for an organization with a worthy mission. My past roles at AMP helped prepare me for my current role by providing valuable learning experiences — about our members, about the industry, and about joint action.

We have a very talented and creative team at AMP with a wide range of skill sets and perspectives. The team has achieved numerous successes in recent years, with a focus on operational excellence, effective advocacy, and innovative solutions designed to help meet the needs of our members. An ongoing theme for me has been engagement — both with AMP members and with AMP employees. I’m proud of our team’s efforts, with our continuing progress reflected in positive member satisfaction and employee culture survey results. Engagement will continue to be a theme for us, and I view it as one of public power’s core attributes.

What challenges should public power’s future leaders be prepared to face?

As we all know, our industry is experiencing a transition driven by technological advancements, customer preferences, and policy changes. In the past, our industry changed at a slower, more evolutionary pace — largely via policy changes that took years to realize. Today, the drivers and pace of the changes impacting our resource planning and business model considerations are more revolutionary. Moreover, our industry continues to operate against a backdrop of ever-changing state and federal legislative and regulatory policies.

Public power leaders have traditionally focused on the foundational tenets of affordability and reliability. The challenge that we face today — and which public power leaders will continue to face in the future — is how to be proactive and implement strategies to deliver on those tenets while meeting industry changes head on. At AMP, we have a staff Innovation Team and a member Focus Forward Advisory Council dedicating time to these discussions.

Another critical consideration that public power leaders today and in the future will face is the need to raise awareness of careers in public power and work to recruit the next generation of the workforce — from lineworkers to administrators.