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SC utility Santee Cooper kicks off search for its next CEO

Santee Cooper-South Carolina (copy)

Former lawmaker Peter McCoy, who was confirmed as chairman of Santee Cooper on June 29, presided over his first board meeting July 13. File/AP

MONCKS CORNER — Santee Cooper is starting to search for the next leader of the state-owned public power and water provider.

At his first meeting as board chairman, former South Carolina lawmaker Peter McCoy of Charleston addressed the need to initiate a succession plan to ensure "stability and continuity" within the utility's senior ranks, he said July 13.

David Singleton, who chairs Santee Cooper's human resource committee, will lead the search to replace Mark Bonsall, whose newly extended six-month employment contract ends in early 2022.

"This is a tremendous undertaking for the board," Singleton said at the board meeting in Moncks Corner.

The process will include establishing a pay range with input from a state salary commission, setting up a search committee and hiring a consultant to identify and vet qualified candidates, he said.

Bonsall was recruited from Arizona two years ago to stabilize and overhaul state-owned Santee Cooper as it reeled from losses from the failed expansion of the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County.

Santee Cooper (copy)

File/Staff

The project ran up more than $9 billion in debt before construction on two reactors at the plant was halted in July 2017. Santee Cooper was responsible for 45 percent. 

The utility's involvement in the V.C. Summer collapse set off one of stormiest periods in its 87-year history. 

The casualties included then-CEO Lonnie Carter, who abruptly retired in October 2017. The political fallout came to an end last month, when Gov. Henry McMaster signed a sweeping reform bill giving the state more say over Santee Cooper and its business operations.

Also in June, the utility's board voted to retain Bonsall and deputy CEO Charles Duckworth for six more months.

Their previous contract extensions expired July 7, and their compensation was unchanged under the new agreements. The two executives will be paid half of their original annual salaries of $1.1 million and $560,000 for staying through Jan. 9.

The board also approved performance bonuses last month for Bonsall and Duckworth of $242,500 and $160,050, respectively, for hitting nearly all of the goals spelled out in a strategic work plan. They were eligible to receive up to $250,000 and $165,000.

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Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott

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