Avista Corp. elects new CEO as Scott L. Morris steps down

Avista Corp. Chairman of the Board and CEO Scott L. Morris announced he will retire from the company effective March 1, 2020. 

Morris will serve as the executive chairman of the board of directors until his retirement date but will transition his duties as CEO to Avista President Dennis P. Vermillion, who was elected CEO by the company’s board of directors, effective Oct. 1, 2019. 

Morris will serve as the non-executive chairman of the board following his retirement. Vermillion will continue to serve on Avista’s board of directors.

“We have been diligent and deliberate in the succession planning for our company over the years,” said Morris. “Dennis has clearly demonstrated his commitment to this company, our employees, our communities and our shareholders, and I have every confidence in his ability to successfully lead Avista into the future. His deep leadership experience and extensive expertise in all aspects of the company positions him well to build on his current leadership role and shape the next evolution of the company.”

Morris joined the company in 1981 and began his career in the utility marketing division. From there, and over the course of his career, he served in leadership roles across the company and across Avista’s service area, which took him from Spokane, Wash, to Lewiston, Idaho, to Medford, Ore. and back again to Spokane. 

He served as general manager for Avista’s Oregon and California utility business from 1991 through 2000, when he was named president of Avista Utilities. Morris was named senior vice president of Avista Corp. in 2002, president and COO in 2006 and has served as CEO and Chairman since 2008.

Under Morris’ guidance, Avista grew its position as a solid investment. He facilitated the turnaround and growth of subsidiary company Ecova to over $200 million in annual revenue and sold the company to Engie in 2014 for $335 million, with the company and the jobs remaining in Spokane. 

He led the strategic acquisition of Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. in 2014, which expanded the company’s operations into Alaska as well as the divestiture of non-core businesses, creating superior value for shareholders. Additionally, the dividend increased each year Morris served as the CEO.

“I’ve been honored to lead this company and serve alongside exceptional and dedicated employees for nearly 40 years. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished together and look forward to continuing my service on the Avista board and watching as this company continues to achieve great outcomes for those it serves. As I look forward to this next step, in addition to continued engagement in the community, watching Gonzaga basketball and more time with my family, I especially want to thank my wife, Liz. She’s been with me every step of the way, and ours is a true partnership,” Morris said.

Vermillion joined Avista in 1985 and has held various staff and management positions. His experience covers a broad range of activities, including leadership, energy trading and marketing, risk management, scheduling, resource operations, power/transmission contracting, resource planning and coordination, regulatory issues and production cost modeling.

Previously, Vermillion served as senior vice president of Avista Corp. and president of Avista Utilities, vice president of energy resources and prior to that, as president and chief operating officer for Avista Energy from February 2001, until its sale in June 2007. Vermillion is a Spokane native and a Washington State University graduate. He currently serves as a board member for Western Energy Institute (WEI), American Gas Association (AGA) and the Avista Foundation.

Avista is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities is the operating division that provides electric service to 395,000 customers and natural gas to 362,000 customers. Its service territory covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.6 million. Alaska Energy and Resources Co. is an Avista subsidiary that provides retail electric service in the city and borough of Juneau, Alaska, through its subsidiary Alaska Electric Light and Power Co.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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