Santee Cooper is expected to name an interim director as soon as Friday to replace Lonnie Carter, who recently announced his retirement amid criticism about a multibillion-dollar nuclear project his company and partner SCE&G quit building in late July.
Officials with the state-owned utility would not name a candidate under consideration, but sources told The State that three of the candidates are former Santee Cooper legal counsel Jim Brogdon, former Santee Cooper chief executive Graham Edwards and Marc Tye, the agency’s current executive vice president for competitive markets and new generation.
Steve Hamm, the former state Consumer Advocate who now is interim director of the S.C. Ethics Commission, also is a candidate. Hamm said he has spoken with several Santee Cooper board members about the post, but thinks another candidate will be chosen. Gov. Henry McMaster had asked Hamm if he was interested in the job.
“I do not rate myself as the favorite,’’ Hamm said, noting that the “board might consider me somewhat of a non-traditional candidate. Actually, I think they might need a non-traditional candidate at this stage of their experiences, but we’ll leave that for the board to decide.’’
A fifth candidate’s name was not immediately known, but state Electric Cooperatives Director Mike Couick said he had recommended former Duke Energy official Ellen Ruff as an outside candidate to consider. Ruff is a former senior executive with Duke. Efforts to reach Edwards, Brogdon, Tye and Ruff were unsuccessful Thursday.
The Santee Cooper board has scheduled a special meeting for 10:30 a.m. Friday at the utility’s headquarters in Moncks Corner. The agenda says the board will hear a presentation on naming an interim president and chief executive officer.
“I can’t offer you any information about what the board may or may not do tomorrow,’’ Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said Thursday.
Board Chairman Leighton Lord said it’s possible the board may wait until its next regular meeting to make an announcement, but it could do so Friday.
“I want a unanimous board vote on this,’’ he said. “We’ve got a good variety of candidates.’’
Lord said he’s not sure when a permanent director would be picked because there is uncertainty about whether Santee Cooper will be sold. Gov. Henry McMaster is in talks with at least four investor-owned utilities about buying Santee Cooper. Until that is resolved, it’s difficult to pick a permanent chief executive officer, Lord said.
“We’re really trying to figure out what is the best way to transition to the next CEO,’’ he said. “We are going to start a search as quickly as possible. We are cooperating with the governor and Legislature in the efforts to sell Santee Cooper, but we can’t get a full-time CEO until that has run its course.’’
Santee Cooper and partner SCE&G have been under fire since they chose to walk away from the nuclear expansion project this summer, after spending $9 billion and nearly a decade on the effort. The project shutdown left more than 5,000 people out of work and ratepayers upset that they had been charged nearly $2 billion for the work. The project was canceled after chief contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy. The companies said the project had become too expensive to continue.
Three weeks after the July 31 shutdown announcement, Carter announced his retirement.