CPS Energy, the nation’s largest public power company, has announced a new leader.
Rudy Garza, the utility’s current chief customer engagement officer, has been selected as CPS Energy’s interim President and CEO, effective Monday Nov. 8, the utility’s board decided during a special board meeting Monday.
Garza has worked at CPS Energy since 2012. He is the first Latino to lead the municipally owned utility.
Three of CPS Energy’s five trustees voted in favor of Garza’s appointment on Monday. Trustee John Steen voted in opposition, and outgoing Trustee Ed Kelley was not present for the vote.
He will replace outgoing President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams, who announced two weeks ago that she will be stepping down from her position in early 2022. Gold-Williams will now serve in a “supporting role” through January 2022, a spokeswoman said.
“My job is to keep the train on the tracks while the board works on [finding] a permanent CEO hire,” Garza said Monday during a call with reporters. “We’ve got a lot going on right now that we have got to keep moving forward.”
Garza said he feels confident his experience in the public and energy sectors for the last 25 years has prepared him for this role.
Previously the utility’s senior vice president of distribution service and operations, Garza oversaw maintenance and construction activity as well as the energy management center, according to CPS Energy’s website.
Prior to his time at CPS Energy, Garza served as an assistant city manager and as intergovernmental relations director in Corpus Christi. He also worked for TXU Corporation in Dallas for 13 years.
Garza holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the University of Texas in Austin and a Master of Business Administration from the University of North Texas.
Asked if he would like to become the utility’s official president and CEO, Garza said he has agreed to help the utility through Paula’s transition out of office, and will let the board of trustees “do the job they need to do to find a permanent CEO.”
In his time as interim president and CEO, Garza said he hopes to repair CPS Energy’s relationship with city hall and the public.
The utility has faced a challenging year and a half, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and Winter Storm Uri in February. A recent survey released in October showed public approval for the municipally owned utility is below 50% for the second quarter in a row.
CPS Energy’s financial situation has also grown dire. While the utility is in the midst of fighting roughly half the $1 billion in fuel costs it was charged during the winter storm, it has deemed about $450 million “legitimate” and will pass these costs onto customers over the next 25 years. CPS Energy has resumed disconnecting customers who are past due starting last month, a practice it had abstained from since March 2020.
The utility is preparing to request from the San Antonio City Council a roughly 8% rate increase.
Although some have speculated that Gold-Williams resignation would or should delay that request, Garza indicated the utility would continue to push forward.
“We’ve got to get some certainty on an outcome there,” he said.
CPS Energy announced during its regular monthly board meeting last week that Board Chair Willis Mackey and Vice Chair Janie Gonzalez will lead the CEO search committee. Gonzalez told the San Antonio Report Monday that the process will take between three to nine months and that the board will hire an external search firm to help with the national search.
Gonzalez also noted the historic moment for CPS Energy, as Garza will be the first Latino to lead CPS Energy.
“I will tell you as a pioneer, it’s easier said than done. You’ll be under immense scrutiny; it’s never as easy as people think,” Gonzalez said. “At the end of the day, regardless of your ethnicity, you have to get the job done.”
Gonzalez said she’s proud to be one of three trustees who voted for Garza.
In a CPS Energy press release issued Monday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he feels that Garza has the experience and ability needed to keep CPS Energy operating efficiently during the national search for a permanent CEO.
“This moment of transition gives the organization the opportunity to prepare for coping with the evolving energy environment that it will face in the future,” Nirenberg said. In his role as mayor, Nirenber serves as an ex officio member of CPS Energy’s board.
In the release, Gold-Williams said that she feels Garza will lead CPS Energy’s team members “successfully” and that she is “committed to supporting him through my planned departure in early 2022.”
“It has been my honor serving the citizens of San Antonio, the community from which I was born and raised,” she said.
CPS Energy is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.