CEOs of the year

by Jennifer Van Burkleo, associate editor

The editors at Electric Light & Power magazine in the fall asked readers to nominate CEOs of North American electric utilities in two categories. The large utility CEO must work at a North American utility having 400,000 or more customers; the small utility CEO must work at a North American utility having fewer than 400,000 customers. After reviewing every entry, the editors agreed two nominees stood out.

Joseph “Joe” Rigby kicks off the March of Dimes campaign.

The CEO of the Year in the large utility division is Joseph “Joe” M. Rigby, president, CEO and chairman of the board of Pepco Holdings Inc (PHI). The shareholder-owned public utility holding company serves some 2 million customers in the Mid-Atlantic region. The CEO of the Year in the small utility division is Walter W. Haase, general manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), the largest multi-utility owned and operated by an American Indian tribe. NTUA serves electricity to some 40,000 customers throughout the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, which spreads across northern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah.

Editor in Chief Teresa Hansen presented the CEO of the Year awards Jan. 27 during the fourth annual Electric Light & Power Executive Conference in San Diego.

Electric Light & Power interviewed the CEOs.

ELP: When did you decide to become a utility leader? How did you get where you are?

Rigby: I’ve had two jobs in my life. I started working on a farm when I was 10 and worked there until I graduated from college at 22. I did work as an intern at Atlantic City Electric during two summers, and I really loved the nature of the business and the people. Utility people are typically “lifers,” and they take great pride in providing an essential service. I liked being a part of that. My initial career goal was to someday be a manager; I never really focused on being an executive–that just seemed too far away. But as time went on and opportunities came my way, I realized that I really enjoyed taking on bigger challenges; and I guess people saw something in me. I think advancement is about working hard, being open to new challenges, seeing yourself as an unfinished product, having good mentors, simply doing the best job possible in your current role, and not worrying too much about the next job. I never dreamed I’d be a CEO, but along the way the opportunities grew larger, and I went for it.

Haase: My introduction to the utility industry was inevitable. I was born and raised in Chicago. I had relatives and family friends who worked in the electrical industry as contractors. They urged me to continue my education and pursue a career in electrical engineering. They also introduced me to the industry through side jobs and through time serving as a union electrician helper during the summer. These valuable experiences improved my knowledge of the utility industry, and it amplified with each assignment. I absorbed everything. I watched and I listened, taking time to understand every facet of engineering, including employee relations and business management. I learned by example and am thankful for all those who took the time to teach. With each experience, I gained knowledge. With this knowledge, I found my niche. This niche I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It has allowed me to help make a significant difference in lives of people and families. There’s nothing more rewarding.

Walter Haase joins NTUA District Manager Rubianne Dugi and Management Board Chairman Sidney Bob Dietz II to cut the ribbon to the NTUA Chinle District Office.

ELP: Walter, you have focused your career on advancing reliable electricity to families and communities. What motivated you to push for expanding electricity service on the largest Native American reservation?

Haase: The motivation stems deep in the fact that there are thousands without basic access to electricity. The Navajo people have lived on their traditional homelands for generations upon generations. Homesteads are located in remote areas, thereby limiting the possibility of electricity anytime soon. While the simple solution would be to move to an area closer to the electrical grid, often the decision is not to. The choice for Navajo families is to remain where their grandparents homesteaded. They would rather wait for electrical power than leave the land where generations of their family have lived. Because we know their ties to traditional homelands are rooted deep, our focus is to accommodate and do what we can to make life just a little bit easier.

Under the eye of former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., Haase co-signs the document creating the Boquillas Wind Farm. The wind farm is still in preconstruction development; however, it is the first time the Navajo Nation holds majority ownership in energy produced within its homeland territory.

We are also seeing younger families’ returning to the family homesteads. These young families are moving from metropolitan areas. They are used to the comfort of urban amenities such as electrical power and running water. They give all that up so that their children can be nurtured and raised in the Navajo culture. As parents, we want the best for our children. We respect that choice. We give families recommendations and suggestions. Once early construction begins, it is not uncommon for families to watch daily construction crews build the lines toward their homes. When it’s complete, these same families cook a large meal for our crew members to show their appreciation.

ELP: What has been your most difficult utility decision, and what was the outcome?

Rigby: I think the most difficult decisions typically involve people because those decisions can directly impact someone’s livelihood or career aspirations. When you realize you need to trim costs, it can frequently involve selling a business or laying people off. It’s necessary for the health of the company, but I can always visualize the spouse coming home that night to tell their family the bad news. Those decisions should be hard to make.

Haase: My most difficult utility decision was not a business decision; it was a decision on how to handle a tragic event. A couple of months after I started work at NTUA, a young apprentice line worker died as a result of a construction accident. A pole the young man was on broke. He was thrown and sustained fatal injuries. His team did what they could to revive him and keep him alive while emergency medical help was dispatched. This team was out in a very remote area. He was airlifted to the hospital; however, he passed away on the way to the hospital. He worked in our Tuba City District located more than 200 miles away from our headquarters.

I was at one of my first board meetings when I received the news of the accident. The initial reports indicated the employee was still alive and was on the way to the hospital. I never expected to have to deal with an accidental death and was not prepared. Here on the Navajo Nation, I am a minority. I was not familiar with the Navajo tradition and culture. Several folks recommended that I send a group of senior Navajo managers to represent the organization. Others recommended that if I did travel to the district office, I should leave the next morning and make sure I arrive after the Employee Assistance Program staff.

I decided to leave right after the board meeting ended. I planned to go straight to the motel and address the staff first thing in the morning. On the way to the motel we noticed the lights were on in our district office so we decided to stop by to see what was going on. I did not expect to find what we found. There were more than 150 people in the building. His wife and two young girls, his mother and father, his wife’s mother and father, their immediate and extended family, all their clan relatives and many friends were there. I was expected to address the folks.

About one month before the accident occurred, I had the privilege to meet this young man. He had just been indentured in the line worker apprentice program, and the crew that he had worked with as a ground worker purchased a very nice embroidered jacket, complete with the NTUA logo. They wanted to congratulate him and they had asked me to honor him by giving it to him during the district office meeting. I told the group about the one time I met this young man and how he was honored by his colleagues for his accomplishment. I recalled how happy the young man was about being honored by his co-workers and how he looked forward to becoming a journeyman lineman. I encouraged folks from the audience to talk about the young man’s life.

I witnessed and heard a tremendous show of love and support for this young man. I saw the impact this young man had on his family, his relatives and his community. It was very moving. I wanted to do something more than express my condolences. The next morning we closed the office and expected to address the staff only; however, Navajo culture dictated otherwise. So rather than operate as a business during this incident, I decided to respect Navajo culture and allow for family gatherings as part of the healing process. For a few days, family members, friends, community members and even the Navajo Nation Safety Department and Navajo Nation OSHA used our office space. As a result of these meetings, I proposed to the NTUA work force to establish a memorial scholarship program for the children left behind, and the board agreed to provide a match to the funds that were raised. It was the first of its kind on the Navajo Nation whereby employees raise money and set up an educational endowment for the young children left behind. This first-time effort, NTUA employees raised $20,000, and the board provided a $20,000 match, so over $40,000 was set aside for his children.

Rigby leads a companywide all-hands meeting session offering insights into PHI’s performance in 2012 and its direction and goals for 2013.

As diverse societies, we deal with death in different ways. Through this situation, we were able to come together and bond during the healing process. As a result of this experience, we have created a new tradition where we watch out for the children of NTUA employees who pass away during their employment with NTUA. This is a memorial tribute to them and an acknowledgement that they helped us build utilities for the Navajo Nation.

ELP: Joe, you joined Atlantic City Electric in 1979 and worked your way up. What advice do you have for other utility execs who want to achieve the same level of success?

Rigby: There is no substitute for hard work and seeing yourself as constantly in need of growth. I think it’s important to not take yourself too seriously and recognize you’re about as good as the people you surround yourself with. I also think it’s important to have a strong sense of who you are and to know that the toughest tests are solved through integrity and tenacity, not just brain power.

ELP: What problems are unique to your utility, and how have you overcome them?

Rigby: In the summer of 2010, our Pepco utility experienced three devastating storms. We had an infrastructure that could not meet our customers’ expectations after severe weather, and our day-to-day reliability stats weren’t where they needed to be. We had a serious problem. We had some simple choices: get defensive or take accountability. We chose the latter. We put together a plan that we knew would take at least two years before real sustained improvement would be noticed by the customers. We took a lot of criticism over the past two years; frankly, some of it deserved. It was important to stay focused and work the plan. It has been important to help my folks know that we’re doing the right things and to report progress but to also stress that we have a way to go. It has been very gratifying over the past few months to see the progress, to pass some tough tests–storms–and watch the pride in my folks grow.

Haase: The Navajo Nation is a sovereign nation. It is a nation within a nation, spreading across three states in the southwest. As a result, NTUA must balance the rules and regulations and laws of multiple jurisdictions. One example of how this impacts NTUA and our customers is when we need to extend any utility line to a home or business. We must receive right of way approvals from the tribal government and the federal government, including the full National Environmental Policy Act process and in some cases state approval. If the line crosses state or federal roads or other utility corridors, we are required to receive additional approvals before we can start construction. This is a lengthy and complicated process. Best-case scenario, this process takes six months if the right of way is less than one mile.

If the required right of way is more than one mile, a normal timeline is one to two years. In certain very difficult cases, it takes many years to get all the right of way approvals needed to build the line. This means a family could wait for months–maybe years–before receiving electricity. It’s not uncommon for a family to wait two to five years, perhaps 10 years, and even decades. Families know this. They live their lives and have adapted to life without electricity. As they patiently wait, we do what we can to try to find solutions.

ELP: Walter, although NTUA is working to meet the basic utility needs of the Navajo Nation, about 16,000 families still do not have access to electricity. What other basic necessities are families without? What are you doing to reach out to those households?

Haase: Six years ago NTUA was experiencing difficult financial problems and dramatically reduced its capital improvement plan. Five years ago we had about 18,000 without access to basic electric service, which represents approximately 75 percent of the homes in the U.S. that do not have access to the electric grid. It took two years to correct our financial situation. We were able to gain access to several federal and state grant and loan programs that allowed us to dramatically increase our capital program. During the last five years we have averaged providing service to 700 families per year. Once we provide service to an area, we experience an increase in population as more families move back to their ancestral lands.

As I became part of the picture, I knew I also had to be part of the solution. I heard countless stories of families’ traveling a great distance for food and water. They talked about the lack of refrigeration because they live too far from the regular electrical grid. I learned that these families stored fresh meat in coolers and had to drive more than 20 miles to the nearest store for ice to keep the food fresh. These trips were multiple times a week. Therefore, rather than just setting up a basic solar or wind unit, we upgraded the units to include a small refrigerator. This made a significant difference. It was a compatible shift that provided the basic necessity of fresh food. That is the intermediate solution until we can connect them to the main grid.

Haase listens to utility concerns of current Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.

We also work closely with other Navajo Nation government entities to reduce the waiting time to get families connected. The local tribal communities also help to identify families’ requesting utility connections. Each district puts together a waiting list, and that becomes our blueprint. The work begins to find the funding and start the projects. The Rural Utility Services (RUS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have been a tremendous help to extend electric services. We also work with our neighboring sister utilities that serve outlying communities. We consider proposals that will ensure a positive difference.

We are a multi-utility service provider, so our mission is great. There are approximately 20,000 families without water services to their homes. Most families utilize a septic system when they have water service. About 52,000 families do not have natural gas service. We understand that families in these isolated regions have lost hope of having utilities because they have been waiting for years. With these partnerships, our goal is to erase that lost hope and to provide multi-utility services.

ELP: What is a typical day for you?

Rigby: I’m a very early riser; it’s a holdover from my farm days. I get up at 5 a.m., try to exercise three or four days a week, and I’m at the office by 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. Like everyone, my day is full or meetings, reviewing a wide range of information, and hopefully focusing on the right things so I don’t get in someone else’s way. I think that last point is really important. There are a lot of things I’d like to jump into, but I need to let these talented people do their jobs. There are clearly meetings set aside for decision-making and performance reviews, and I try to maintain a very open and transparent dialogue with my board. I need to just be available when people have a problem or just need to talk or vent. A typical day also involves a lot of coffee for me.

Haase: My typical day is action-packed. I routinely have meetings on very diverse subjects. I routinely receive updates on projects. I provide insight and guidance. I meet with Navajo Nation political leaders, local community representatives and customers. I spend a considerable amount of time giving presentations to staff members. We have approximately 650 employees working within our organization, including seven district offices. I also spend a considerable amount of time traveling and meeting with folks wanting to develop projects and business throughout the Navajo Nation. We are working to advance the utility infrastructure on the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation leadership has labeled NTUA as the flagship of tribal enterprises. That is a compliment as well as a responsibility.

ELP: Walter, how do you provide electricity to the more than 2,000 Navajo homes while respecting their Native American traditions and views?

Haase: The Navajo Nation has a living culture. The Navajo people honor and practice their traditions and culture daily throughout the entire region. Electricity doesn’t change that. People would rather have electricity than not. There are very few stories where some families choose to live without. That’s OK, and we respect that choice. In fact, most homesteads have a modern home and a traditional hogan (original tribal dwellings). The homes have the electric hookups while hogans do not. That’s because the families want to maintain some aspect of a traditional lifestyle without modern conveniences.

ELP: How have you kept your company afloat in a bad economy?

Rigby: It’s a balance. We need to invest, and that’s a good thing. It not only improves our service, but it sustains and creates jobs. It builds tax base. It’s good for the local economy. We need to provide a competitive return to our investors, so we have to file periodic rate cases. We have to recover these costs with a reasonable return, and that’s a real challenge since our regulators are mindful of passing along costs to customers in a tough economy. We have to tighten our belt–look for efficiencies and a proper cost structure. We need to look for and identify the right levers to pull to make good trade-off decisions. We have to negotiate competitive labor agreements and make sure we pay our employees a fair wage with good benefits. There’s nothing magical about it; we have a job to do, and it’s not supposed to be easy. It’s no different than on the home front. When times get tough, you buckle down and eliminate the nice-to-haves and focus on the need-to-haves.

Haase: When I arrived at NTUA, the company had experienced losses for the three previous years. We were struggling financially, and we were unable to qualify for a RUS loan or have access to the financial marketplace. We had a real challenge to change our situation. We studied the financials, identified what we needed to do to qualify for financing. We developed several strategies to enhance our financial situation, and we identified several grant opportunities. It was rare that the NTUA work force saw a general manager. I wanted to change that.

It was important to enhance our employee understanding of utility operations, share our financial information and discuss what drives our finances and how our employees impact our results. We discussed what needed to be accomplished to access the financial markets and what needed to be completed to implement our strategies. It was my understanding that this information was really never shared with the entire work force. It was my belief that this information needs to be shared and understood so the employees will have a clear vision and understand what needs to be done to accomplish our goals. As we accomplished the objectives, we communicated the successes and kept discussing the items that needed to be completed.

The continued encouragement provided motivation and a sense of accomplishment and worth for the work force. I have been here five years and since my arrival, the work force has become a team and has successfully pulled NTUA out of its financial trouble. This was a real achievement. Because of our improved financials, we have qualified for $103 million in RUS loans and more than $100 million in grants. Most of the grants we received require significant matching money to qualify for the grant. Had we not been able to access the financial marketplace, we would not have received the grants. This exceptional turnaround driven by our staff’s teamwork has allowed us to improve the lives of all the people living on the Navajo Nation.

ELP: Walter, the average U.S. household income is more than $30,000 per year. The Navajo household income is a little more than $7,000 per year. What are you doing to ensure the cost of electricity is affordable for the Navajo Nation?

Haase: We have implemented several strategies to reduce our operating and maintenance costs. We have dramatically reduced our accounts receivables and refinanced several bonds. We have worked to broaden and expand the Navajo Nation’s economy. We have brought on several new large customers. We are rapidly expanding our telecommunications department. We have received a $32.2 million grant from the Department of Commerce–NTIA, the National Telecommunication and Information department–on a $46 million communications project. This has already provided a significant increase in revenue and has created more than 40 permanent jobs.

We are in the process of developing several renewable energy projects. The energy is to be sold to other utilities, providing jobs for Navajo people and providing a new revenue stream for NTUA and the Navajo people. It’s the first time for such an energy-producing economic venture on the Navajo Nation. It is also the first time the Navajo Nation and its people have a minority, majority ownership in the renewable energy business. It is our hope and goal that this becomes a new economy for the Navajo Nation.

Since we are a not-for-profit company, all incremental income helps to keep our rates low. NTUA has one of the lowest rates throughout the southwest region. We initiated a rate increase in 2007 and have implemented a system that will seek rate increases periodically. During our previous rate increase hearings, our customers requested that any rate increase proposal be periodic so that such increases might be minimal and will allow for household budget adjustments. Rather than having one large increase, we have implemented a phase-in approach. Our customers understand rising costs and have come to recognize that we will work with them to keep their utilities energized. It’s a relationship that we continue to cultivate.

ELP: How do you expect the electric utility industry to change in the next 20 years?

Rigby: Great question. I think it will be driven by customer service and new technology. While we build, maintain and operate infrastructure for the most part, what we really do is provide a service. It’s a service that is expected to be 100 percent reliable, delivered with modern technology, and powered by a range of energy sources. I sometimes think it is hard to truly envision the future out 20 years, just as I doubt many of us envisioned iPads, iPhones or smart apps 20 years ago. One thing I do know: We will remain an essential service, and more will happen over the next 20 years than over the prior 50 or 100 years.

Haase: I expect the electric utility industry to continue to evolve and become more complicated. Deregulation of the industry will keep moving forward, and new regulations will continue to be placed on the industry. These new regulations will have the potential to dramatically change our industry. The industry is rapidly moving away from coal. This will have a big impact on how we operate and what fuels we use to generate electricity. It may cause bankruptcy for certain independent power producers that have significant coal generating assets and require our transmission system to grow to meet our new power demands. We will have to find new ways to meet the needs of our customers. Keeping prices affordable will be a key to keep our economy strong. I expect electric vehicles will one day impact electric distribution systems the same way air conditioners impacted our distribution systems in the 1970s and 1980s. The one thing I do know is whatever I predict may not be accurate, but the changes will and do keep our jobs interesting.

ELP: Joe, after the summer storm in July and Hurricane Sandy, there were reliability concerns from customers. How do you address your customers and ensure reliable service?

Rigby: We give them the facts. We report out each quarter on the progress of our reliability improvement plan so they can see what we’re doing and how we’re doing. That communication takes many forms: our website, bill inserts, videos, reports to our commissions, embedding reporters in our storm response process and quarterly outreach calls to local government officials. Customers’ expectations are much higher today than even five years ago, and it is essential to make sure you have the system and people poised to meet those expectations. Nothing speaks louder than reliable service and efficient storm restoration.

ELP: The next two generations of utility CEOs likely read Electric Light & Power magazine if they’re currently in the industry. What should they do to get your job when you retire or after your successor retires?

Rigby: A couple of things come to mind. I’m proof that you don’t have to be a genius to do this! But you do need a very good sense of the pieces that make up this puzzle. I’m not an engineer, but over time I’ve become familiar enough with the infrastructure to make good calls on investments. I have a financial background, and it’s essential to be able to dialogue with depth with investors, rating agencies and regulators. You need to be able to conceptualize the entire business in your mind because you are the one who needs to protect, preserve and grow the company. You need to be a quick and talented judge of talent. You need to have just enough ego to want to be in the lead but be comfortable to hire people smarter than you are. You need to move around the company; get into different roles beyond your area of formal schooling. One of the best experiences I had was the year I headed up our human resource group. It certainly gave me a strong appreciation for how important that process is, and it’s a key to success as a CEO. One last comment: Learn how to speak in public, and get good at it. Communication is a huge part of the job, and it’s much easier if you enjoy doing it.

Haase: It is important for them to understand the big picture. While it is important to address daily operations, it’s equally critical to look for long-term solutions. The key element in developing the long-term vision for the company is to understand and balance the needs of the customers, the employees and the community or communities served. It is important for them to learn their job and understand how their duties help support the company goals and objectives and fulfill its mission. To help understand the big picture, I recommend learning the job duties of the staff members that you provide support to and the duties of the folks that report to you. You may think that the technical issues you are dealing with are time-consuming and difficult, but the people issues are much more difficult to resolve. Be supportive of staff members. When you are able, do what you can to help them be successful in their jobs. Help them prepare for the future by continuing your education. This is important, whether it’s completing professional development hours, attending seminars, or attaining an advanced degree. Learning how to motivate staff members, being a leader and resolving people issues are the keys to advancing in any organization. Be prepared and understand the big picture is the foundation for long-term solutions. I wish everyone good luck with their endeavors, especially if it centers on energy production, development and distribution. People are counting on us to keep the power on.

ELP: Walter, NTUA is a large Navajo Nation employer; more than 97 percent of employees are of Navajo descent. When you joined NTUA, what cultural difference did you face because you are not of Navajo descent?

Haase: I’ve learned a lot during my tenure and continue to learn every day. Fortunately the employees are willing to share information knowing that I’m willing to learn. It’s important to know that there are more than 500 federally recognized American Indian tribes in the United States. Each tribe has its own language, culture, traditions and customs. The Navajo Nation is the largest land-based tribe in the United States with approximately 230,000 registered members. Even though modern conveniences exist, the people hold strong to traditions and culture. The Navajo language remains strong, and people prefer speaking and listening to their own language. I would say that’s the primary cultural difference–preference of the Navajo language. While the English language has exact definitions, I’ve learned that Navajo language is more descriptive. For instance, the term for electricity is “lighting.” The people use “red copper wire” instead. That’s because culturally lighting is considered a powerful force and has to be respected. The term is only used in cultural settings, and not for daily utility operations.

ELP: How are you involved in your community outside of work?

Rigby: I think it’s essential to be involved in the community. We are a public service company, and that public service extends to our responsibility as a member of the broader community. I think any true leader realizes that they have been fortunate in their lives and that they and their companies can bring real value to help solve the issues and challenges in the community. Plus, it really feels good to be helping other people. I’ve been a career long supporter of the United Way, and I’m now serving my second term as chair of the United Way of the National Capital Area. I also wrapped up my year as chair of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, which is the leading business association in the District of Columbia. I’ve served in chairman roles for the March for Babies and the Trust for the National Mall–think of this as restoring America’s front yard. More importantly, I work with about 4,500 people at Pepco Holdings who devote countless hours and their own money to make our area a better place to live. That’s much bigger than anything I do.

Haase: At NTUA, we believe in community. In fact, we are community. Our employees consider their communities as one large, extended family; therefore the separation doesn’t really seem to exist in terms of being involved outside of work. This has always been the case at NTUA. The Navajo people have a strong kinship they refer to as Ke’, which embodies compassion, kindness, empathy, support and understanding. This concept strengthens customer service. This became clear to me after I started work here, and seeing such interaction, the meaning of community service became clearly evident. I support these efforts and try to be a part of the events to show my respect as it shows our way of giving back to communities. Our employees volunteer to chop and haul firewood to the elderly, volunteer for community events and activities, raise money to buy holiday gifts for homeless children, raise money to send holiday care packages to military servicemen and women who will not be home for the holidays. In Navajo, the word for thank you is Ah’ee’ee. When people express Ah’ee’ee to me and our employees, it carries deep appreciation because it has powerful meaning.

ELP: Joe, you have talked a lot about cybersecurity; you were even a participant for Electric Light & Power’s cybersecurity roundtable. How are federal regulations and multiple state regulatory frameworks helping or hindering your progress to secure PHI’s infrastructure?

Rigby: This country’s critical infrastructure is already being maliciously targeted for cyberattacks. We need a cohesive and nimble cyber policy to protect against and to prepare for responding to these attacks.

At a minimum, owners and operators of the electric grid must have quick and meaningful access to threat information from the federal agencies charged with monitoring national security. Only through robust public-private information sharing can we ensure to the greatest extent possible that our systems are protected and that we can be resilient. We’ve been clear to Congress that our industry and my company want to be part of the solution. There are tough issues like liability protection and information security and privacy that must be solved, but I think that does not argue for waiting any longer to advance a comprehensive solution through the legislative and regulatory process. We cannot have divergent rules across the 50 states. We need to align standards to one overarching set of regulations. I know there will be little forgiveness on the other side of a severe cyberattack. We are an industry that is used to government oversight, and we take our role in providing reliable service as our top priority alongside safety. We stand ready to be an active participant in the federal legislative and regulatory process.

Speaking if front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Rigby congratulates the winners of the U.S. Solar Decathlon.

ELP: How do you spend your spare time?

Rigby: I’m a big sports fan of Philadelphia-based teams, being a South Jersey boy. So I watch sports on TV when I’m reading work materials at night or on the weekend. Of course, my D.C. friends are riding me very hard right now. Honestly, the weeks are long and busy, so the best thing I do in my spare time is spend time with my wife. We have a date night every weekend, and that’s the best part of my week. Of course, I try to see my kids as much as possible, along with the rest of our family. Basically, it’s pretty boring by some standards, but it’s great for me.

Haase: I spend as much time as I can with my family. I have three children. My children are actively involved in several sports. My wife and I try to attend as many of their sporting events as possible. I’m an avid sports fan. I watch sports. Calling Chicago home, I’m a lifelong fan of Chicago professional sports teams: the Bears, the Bulls and the Cubs. Wherever I may be, I make it a point to watch and cheer on my favorite teams throughout the year. In Navajo country, the preferred sport is basketball. Fans travel many miles over several hours to watch their favorite high school basketball teams, and it’s not surprising they often fill gymnasiums to capacity. Here basketball goals and kids are synonymous as the love for the game begins at an early age. It’s also nice to know that there are many Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose fans on the Navajo Nation, which makes the sports camaraderie feel closer to home.ELP

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