The Seattle City Council unanimously confirmed by a vote of 9-0 Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s nominee for the next General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Seattle City Light, Debra Smith. Smith, a public utility industry veteran, will be sworn in by Mayor Durkan on October 15. She will be only the second woman to lead Seattle City Light in its 108-year history.
“Seattle is fortunate to have Debra as our next leader of City Light, an organization that is critical to delivering affordable and reliable power to hundreds of thousands of businesses and residents every day. Debra will help ensure City Light puts its customer first while building on the steps we’ve taken to improve workplace culture,” said Mayor Durkan. “With an administration in the other Washington that is trying to undo our climate and clean energy progress, it will be up to cities – and major public utilities like Seattle City Light – to lead the way and be an example for the rest of the world.”
Mayor Durkan nominated Smith in August after seeking a leader who could continue to reliably deliver service, improve workplace culture and customer service, revamp the business model to create an affordable rate path, and position the utility to lead on climate change and in the new energy era. Smith’s nomination by Mayor Durkan came after an extensive national search process by a search committee that included 22 business, labor, non-profit, and community leaders, many with experience in clean energy and environmental justice. The search for a new General Manager and CEO also included extensive community outreach.
“I’m grateful for the support of Mayor Durkan and the Councilmembers, and I’m so honored to be the next GM and CEO for Seattle City Light. I look forward to getting to know Seattle City Light from the inside, building relationships with my team members, listening to feedback from our community, and working collaboratively with City Council,” said Debra Smith. “I believe in the power of people working together to improve the experience of our employees, customers, and community partners.”
“Over the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about Debra Smith, and her vision and management style – and I am impressed. While City Light faces a number of challenges – both internal and external – Ms. Smith has exhibited that she will bring her professional experience and personal dedication to the Utility, and be the transformational leader the Utility needs in order to build trust with customers and front-line workers,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “I am excited to continue to work with Ms. Smith to ensure Seattle City Light remains the nation’s greenest utility, and one that we can all be proud of.”
Smith has 22 years of public utility experience in the Pacific Northwest. From 2013 to 2018, she served as the General Manager of Central Lincoln People’s Utility District, which provides electricity to residents of Oregon’s Central Coast. Under her leadership, Central Lincoln PUD achieved its highest ever customer satisfaction ratings. Prior to taking on the leadership role at Central Lincoln PUD, from 1996 to 2013 Smith served in a number of roles, including Assistant General Manager, at Eugene Water & Electric Board, a publicly-owned water and electricity utility.
In addition to her work in the utility industry, Smith also serves on a number of community and non-profit organizations, including the Northwest Requirements Utilities board of directors, the Public Power Council, and the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee.