The CPS Energy board room is almost empty, save for a few staffers and reporters on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
The CPS Energy board room is almost empty, save for a few staffers and reporters on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Okay, so not literally. And not yet.

“I can imagine how they feel when they select a pope,” quipped CPS Energy board Chair Ed Kelley as he waited for one more, quorum-making board member to arrive at the special meeting Tuesday night. The only item on the agenda was to discuss and interview candidates to become the next CEO. The board’s executive session – closed to the public and press – took three and a half hours.

“The smoke is still black,” Kelley joked after the session concluded.

Cardinals signal their papal decision by burning their ballots, creating white smoke that billows out through a chimney at the Sistine Chapel.

Perhaps “by the end of July if everything falls in place the way it could,” Kelley said before the meeting began, already sure that the board will need more time, “I don’t want to make any promises because there are always variables.”

Most City, business, and community leaders (and several reporters) eagerly await the decision as CPS Energy is slated to continue the ambitious set of projects and programs established during former CEO Doyle Beneby’s tenure. He left CPS Energy last year.

(Read More: Mayor Taylor: CPS Energy is ‘Moving On’ From Beneby)

Pending final paperwork, CPS Energy will move its headquarters from the River Walk to the Museum Reach in 2019; fundraising efforts continue for the EPIcenter, the nonprofit incubator, research lab, and education center that Beneby helped initiate on the Mission Reach; San Antonio’s so-called New Energy Economy (also one of Beneby’s legacy initiatives) is growing; and the day-to-day responsibilities of the largest municipally owned natural gas and electric company in a city that is expected to grow by 1 million people by 2040 indicate that the new CEO will have plenty of work to do.

Paula Gold-Williams has been leading these efforts as interim CEO since Beneby’s back-and-forth departure. She routinely receives praise from the board for her performance, but it’s unknown if Gold-Williams is one of the final candidates being considered.

Kelley declined to indicate how many candidates the board interviewed on Tuesday, but he did say he considered the meeting part of the final stage of discussions.

In the meantime, I’ll let you know if I see any white smoke next month.

Mayor Ivy Taylor serves as an ex-officio member of the board with four other members that represent different service quadrants of San Antonio: Kelley (northwest), Freeman Coliseum Executive Director Derrick Howard (southeast), Northwest Vista College economics professor Homer Guevara (southwestern), and former Texas Secretary of State John Steen (northeast). Steen is currently out of town, according to CPS Energy staff.

This story was originally published on Tuesday, June 28.

Top image: The CPS Energy board room is almost empty, save for a few staffers and reporters on Tuesday afternoon.  Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Related Stories:

CPS Energy Exec To Take City’s Top Economic Development Post

CPS Energy to Move into Former AT&T Building Downtown

Mayor Taylor: CPS Energy is ‘Moving On’ From Beneby 

EPIcenter to Bring Energy Education, Innovation to Southside

New Energy Economy Impact Estimated at $622 Million, More to Come

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at