Angela Verdell officially started Monday as the new general manager for Columbus Light and Water, but she told the utility’s board she feels like she’s been in the position far longer.
“Today is my fourth day on the job, but it seems like I’ve already been here four months,” Verdell told board members Thursday during their monthly meeting. “There is just so much information. … I’m not over here twiddling my thumbs. I’m working to be engaged (with operations) so we can have the best start possible.”
Verdell was hired in June to replace longtime GM Todd Gale, who passed away in February. She was previously director for diversity programs and student development at Mississippi State University and served as president for the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2018.
Her annual salary is $180,000, CLW board attorney Jeff Smith told The Dispatch last week. The utility also will likely pay both Verdell’s and CLW’s share of her Public Employees Retirement System contributions, Smith said, which will bring Verdell’s total compensation to $196,200.
By comparison, Gale’s total compensation was “between $191,000 and $192,000,” Smith said, which also included CLW paying his share of PERS.
On Thursday, Verdell ended the board meeting by presenting an outline for her first 90 days. She has already begun meeting daily with the electric and water superintendents, “getting a feel for our policies and organizational culture,” and she plans to have met one-on-one with all CLW employees by the end of next week.
From there, Verdell hopes to start visiting CLW’s facilities out in the field.
“I like spending time outdoors, so that will be a treat,” Verdell said.
Long-term, she wants to find ways CLW can engage better with the public, bring more awareness to its programs and become a “better community partner.” As an example she gave for a program that needed a better public relations push, she said she was unaware until she came on as GM that CLW allows customers to round up their bills to the next dollar and uses the donated portion for local utility assistance programs for the less fortunate.
She also plans to recommend CLW create a position that would just focus on human resources. Right now, those duties are tacked on the several roles handled by one employee.
Brandy Gardner, CLW’s board president, formally welcomed Verdell to the utility.
“We are so blessed to have you join this team,” Gardner said.
In other business Thursday, CLW accepted the audit report for its water division for Fiscal Year 2020 from Watkins, Ward and Stafford, which found no material weaknesses in its financial reporting or internal controls.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.