Rudy Garza will soon drop the word “interim” from his title as president and CEO of CPS Energy.

CPS Energy’s board of trustees voted Tuesday to suspend its search for a new president and CEO in anticipation of naming Garza its next permanent leader.

The utility will now enter into a 30-day negotiation period with Garza. The board must vote to approve the terms of the contract before Garza can sign on the dotted line.

He will be the first Hispanic to serve in the role.

Garza joined CPS Energy’s staff in 2012 and has held a variety of leadership roles since; he took on the mantle of interim president and CEO in November 2021 after the exit of Paula Gold-Williams, who left after criticism over the utility’s handling of power outages during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, an exodus of leadership and scandals over executive spending.

Garza was tasked with stanching the flow of executives leaving the utility while also dealing with the fallout from the winter storm, securing City Council support for a rate increase and slowing the revenue loss from unpaid bills due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An engineer by training, Garza has served as the utility’s vice president of external relations, interim chief customer engagement officer and chief customer and stakeholder engagement officer, giving him a broad view into the inner workings of the utility. A Corpus Christi native, Garza served briefly as an assistant city manager of Corpus Christi; before that he spent 13 years at TXU Energy.

More than 100 staffers, including many linemen, packed into the board room Tuesday to offer Garza their support.

CPS Energy employees fill the outside lobby of the executive board room in support of Rudy Garza to be named the next president of the municipally owned energy company. Garza currently serves in an interim capacity.
CPS Energy employees fill the outside lobby of the executive board room in support of Rudy Garza being named the next president and CEO of the municipally owned energy company. Garza currently serves in an interim capacity. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“[Rudy] has left a positive footprint through the utility as he has climbed the ranks,” said Ron Ramsey, an electric service foreman at CPS Energy and the president of the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said during public comment. “I have no doubt about his experience and leadership skill. He is the right choice for president and CEO at CPS Energy.”

Janie Gonzalez, the board’s vice chair, led the CEO search. The utility hired search firm Russell Reynolds Associates in April. On the advice of CPS Energy legal staff Tuesday, Gonzalez declined to discuss how many other candidates were considered.

Gonzalez said she heard loud and clear from the community that they wanted to see Garza in the top job permanently.

Compensation will be a central part of the negotiations.

Gold-Williams left making $485,000 annually in base pay; in years she earned her bonus, however, she typically made more than $1 million per year.

However, CPS Energy hasn’t included bonus pay as part of executive salaries since 2020; at the start of pandemic lockdowns, CPS Energy suspended disconnections and canceled $13 million in bonuses that would have gone to 1,800 utility employees.

Led by Mayor Ron Nirenberg, trustees have shown little appetite for resuming bonus pay for executives.

Garza makes $415,000 as interim president and CEO. In March of this year, he told the San Antonio Report he would expect to make more than this if he is made permanent president and CEO.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Garza told reporters he will be looking for “a fair deal” from trustees.

While the utility’s executive salaries have come under fire locally, they pale in comparison to what top executives at investor-owned energy companies earn. According to a report by the Energy and Policy Institute, CEOs at investor-owned utilities across the country earned between $2.4 million and almost $28 million in compensation in 2019.

Nirenberg has said he would support a compensation package at CPS Energy that mirrored the one the San Antonio Water System put into place for its CEO, Robert Puente, last year, which includes bonus pay, but defers it for several years as a retention tool. This type of incentive program is more transparent, he said.

CPS Energy is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...