On July 1, Carolyn Shanks officially took the reins as president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi.
“It’s a lot of fun to be in the power industry today,” Shanks said. “The entire time I’ve been in the industry, it has continued to change and has been real exciting. When I first started, we were bringing nuclear units on line and that was a real challenge. We’ve gone through different phases. Now, we’re preparing for restructuring of this last regulated monopoly and it’s going to be an entirely new environment for us and offer us a lot of opportunities.”
Entergy is an international electric utility company based in New Orleans that provides electric service to more than 2.5 million U.S. customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Entergy Mississippi, also a major national nuclear operator, serves about 380,000 customers from Tunica to Natchez.
Since February, Shanks has been working with Don Meiners, outgoing president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi.
“We’ve been out visiting all over the service territory, meeting with employees and retirees and all the business community leaders,” Shanks said. “This has given Don a chance to thank the communities for their support. Between doing that and learning the day-to-day activities with this side of the business, it’s been quite busy the last several months.”
Shanks, a native Mississippian, was raised in Senatobia, received an associate degree from then Northwest Mississippi Junior College in Senatobia before she headed to Mississippi State University in Starkville and subsequently received an accounting degree.
Shanks joined Mississippi Power & Light in 1983 as an accountant shortly after college graduation and later transferred to System Energy Resources Inc., the subsidiary responsible for operations of Grand Gulf Nuclear Station. While there, Shanks was promoted to manager and directed internal business and budgeting processes.
Prior to serving in her current position since February 1997, Shanks was named director of business services for Entergy Operations Inc., the subsidiary that manages all of Entergy’s nuclear power plants. She was a key player in the formation of the new nuclear company and recently played a major role in the acquisition of Boston Edison’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass. The acquisition represented the first transaction through a competitive bid process to involve the purchase of a nuclear plant in the U.S.
Shanks, 37, formerly vice president of finance and administration of Entergy Nuclear, is the youngest CEO at Entergy.
“Within this last year, three of our state presidents within our system have retired, so there are several of us who are new,” Shanks said. “When you put us all together, it’s a real interesting team. All of us have different backgrounds and skills but when you put everyone together, it really is a team that’s complemented by diverse backgrounds.”
The timing of the company’s restructuring coincides with legislative hearings on the public service commission’s proposed plan for deregulation. Under the proposal, customers could chose their electric supplier by the year 2000, and full retail competition will be allowed by the year 2001.
“Entergy supports deregulation, but wants to ensure that it is done right, that it protects our customers and that is for the benefit of all customers,” Shanks said.
Entergy Mississippi’s cost is 20% less than the national average and 10% less than the southeastern average, one of the lowest costs regions in the nation. Entergy’s residential customers pay less today than they have since 1986, Shanks said.
“That’s one reason why there’s so much discussion about how and when Mississippi will restructure its industry,” she said. “The states with the highest cost power were the first to move forward.”
As deregulation takes place, Entergy is positioning itself to be a major competitor in all aspects of the deregulated environment in Mississippi, she said.
“Entergy Mississippi will still be the utility company that delivers your power,” Shanks said. “We will probably also have companies that could provide generation.”
Shanks said her time spent working with Meiners made it easier to step into the role of president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi.
“Don was a wonderful mentor and friend,” she said. “He has always been held with the highest esteem by the company and the employees. That was further evident through all of his retirement activities and the recognition he received. Besides laying the groundwork for being a very successful, customer-focused company headed in the right direction, one of the best things he did was allow me the opportunity to watch how he handled different situations. When we went into communities, people were supportive because of the foundation Don had built. It opened a lot of doors for me very quickly. Because of those experiences, I’m starting on a solid foundation and relationship with those communities.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com.