CHARLOTTE—Ruth Shaw, who began her career at energy giant Duke Power as vice president of corporate communications, has been named president of the Carolinas’ largest utility, succeeding Bill Coley who will retire next month.
She becomes one of just a handful of executives to use the public relations department as a stepping-stone to the corner office.
Shaw, known as a champion of the company’s civic involvement in the region’s community, is currently executive vice president and chief operating officer at parent company Duke Energy, and the only woman on the company’s policy committee.
Shaw joined Duke Power in 1992 as vice president of corporate communications and also served as senior vice president of corporate resources. By 1997, she was executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Duke Energy and president of the Duke Energy Foundation. She has overseen a range of Duke Energy departments, from diversity and ethics to e-business to health and safety.
“Over her 10-year career at our company, Ruth has distinguished herself as an extraordinary business leader, with strengths in strategy, operations, management and customer and employee relations,” says Duke Energy chairman and CEO Richard Priory.
Like all utilities, Duke faces intense scrutiny on the environmental front, and Coley was recently instrumental in the passage of state legislation designed to reduce air pollution from the company’s coal-fired plants. But the company has also endured a regulatory investigation after an independent auditor accused it of underreporting $124 million in profits—money that could have been used to reduce customers’ power bills. And more recently, residents criticized Duke Power for poor communication after an ice storm caused 1.4 million blackouts across its service territory.
“My goal is for us to be the strongest utility in the world,” said Shaw. “When I say strongest, I mean in customer satisfaction, reliability and cost.”