Santee Cooper Starts Search for New Utility Leader

(AP) — Santee Cooper is starting the process of looking for a new leader for the state-owned South Carolina utility.

At a recent board meeting — the first for new board chairman Peter McCoy — the leader of the Human Resource Committee promised the board regular updates. “This is a tremendous undertaking for the board,” said David Singleton, the leader of the committee.

Singleton said he will talk to the state commission that approves salaries for agency heads to get a pay range and get together a search committee to hire a consultant to find and weed through possible candidates.

The board is looking to replace Mark Bonsall, who was hired two years ago to overhaul and stabilize Santee Cooper after the state-owned utility lost billions of dollars as a minority partner in the construction of two nuclear power plants that never produced a watt of power.

Bonsall worked in utilities for 41 years before coming to South Carolina, rising to CEO of the Salt River Project in Arizona. Santee Cooper hired Bonsall on an 18-month contract at $1.1 million a year and recently extended the deal an extra six months to near the end of 2021.

“The board has discussed and recognizes the importance of stability and continuity in the CEO role, ” McCoy said.

The board met for over an hour on July 13, with all but about five minutes happening behind closed doors. The board also approved the extension of Bonsall’s contract.

“Thank you for the chance to be here. And thank you for the chance to work together.” McCoy said as he started his first meeting running the board in brief comments before the executive session.

Lawmakers spent $15 million taking bids to sell the utility, but the offers weren’t well-received and instead the General Assembly passed a overhaul bill this year that gets rid of board members who were there during the nuclear debacle. It also gives state regulators more power over the utility.

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