Tacoma utilities boss to take job in D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Tacoma Public Utilities Director Mark Crisson, who helped create Click! Network and Tacoma's second water supply, announced that he is retiring from his current position to head the American Public Power Association in Washington, D.C.

Crisson led the agency for 15 years. "It's a big loss to the city to lose him," said Bob Casey, the board's vice chairman. "I think he was exceptional and I think that's evidenced by where he is going when he leaves TPU - the fact that he's heading up the largest organization of power providers." The TPU board plans to meet soon to discuss Crisson's replacement. Crisson's salary is more than $245,000, according to TPU. He was already the highest paid Tacoma city employee in 2003, before a series of large raises during the past few years pushed his salary up by more than 30 percent. TPU board members credited Crisson with successfully shepherding the utility through the 2000 energy crisis, building a second option for Tacoma Water's supply, and developing Tacoma Power's Click! Network.

They noted his understanding of complex energy issues and the expansion of the utilities' services - including Tacoma Rail - under his leadership. Crisson notified board members and TPU staff of his departure.

"I've been doing this job for 15 years," he said. "I was excited by the prospect of a new challenge, but still doing work in public service and public power, which is important to me." The chair of the APPA board contacted Crisson last spring about applying to be the organization's president and CEO. The APPA represents the more than 2,000 community- and state-owned electric utilities around the country.

Crisson was chairman of the or anization's board of directors in 2003 and two years later received its Alex Radin Distinguished Service Award for leadership in public power. Crisson said he'd started receiving job offers from other utilities a few years back, but the uniqueness of TPU kept him there. "There isn't another organization that has as interesting of a set of operations as we do," he said.

Crisson started at Tacoma Power in 1975. He had gleaned training on power plants while in the Navy working on a nuclear submarine. He became Tacoma Power's superintendent in 1987 and director of the entire utility in 1993.

He's proud of the culture he's created at TPU - one he says fosters collaboration, teamwork and motivation. "In public service, there's not a lot of incentives to take risks," Crisson said. "But we've done a few things like that."

Specifically he cited Click!, the utility's telecommunications network, and the organization's performance during the energy crisis when TPU was able to build new generation facilities on the Tideflats inside of two months and avoid incurring the massive debt sustained by many other utilities. Crisson will probably leave sometime this fall or early winter. David Curry, chair of TPU's board, said members will likely search inside TPU as well as across the nation for a new director.

In his new role, Crisson said he'll work on public policy issues including regulation and climate change legislation. He'll also spend more time with his grown son and daughter, both of whom live in the D.C.-area.


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