Today, the Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors named Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Javier Fernandez as the utility’s next President and Chief Executive Officer.
Timothy J. Burke announced in March that he will retire at the beginning of July. Fernandez will assume the role July 1.
“I’m humbled, and I am honored,” Fernandez said. “I care about this organization because I know the amazing things we’re already doing, the plans we have. It’s exciting,” he said.
Fernandez said he felt a calling and a responsibility to apply for the position.
“With me, at my side, I know I have an amazing team of senior management leaders and about 1,800 women and men who – day in and day out – give their very best to keep the lights on to serve our customer-owners.”
Keeping those employees physically safe, physically healthy, and mentally healthy are among the top priorities for Fernandez. Like companies worldwide, OPPD and its employees have had to adapt and work through the many challenges brought about by the pandemic.
His selection comes after a stakeholder outreach effort in which the utility asked employees, customers, and community leaders what they would like to see in our next CEO. The board asked for this input during its monthly meeting in March, and surveys were submitted at OPPDCommunityConnect.com. Comments were also received via OPPD.com. Directors received feedback from more than 1,000 stakeholders.
“It unquestionably informed our process. It defined the suitability and the readiness of all the applicants,” said Director Craig Moody, the board’s Governance Committee chair and past chair of the board. “Our stakeholders told us they were looking for a credible, proven, forward-thinking leader with excellent communication skills and a passion for the communities OPPD serves.”
During a special board meeting held April 28, directors announced they had selected Fernandez as the sole finalist of five internal applicants to move forward in their selection process. OPPD held a virtual public meet and greet event May 10, to allow the public an opportunity to get to know him better.
Fernandez has been a steady hand for OPPD, both in terms of financial guidance and navigating times of crisis. He helped lead the utility’s response to historic flooding in 2019, when the utility’s Business Continuity Plan was activated. He has been doing so, again, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“His extensive experience, passion, and commitment will serve our customers and our communities well,” said Board Chair Amanda Bogner.
Fernandez, 46, joined the utility in June 2017. He came to OPPD from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), U.S. Department of Energy, in Portland, Oregon. He had been with the federal power marketing administration since 2012, most recently serving as executive vice president and chief financial officer.
Previously, he served as senior vice president of Fixed Income Capital Markets for D.A. Davidson & Company and vice president of Public Finance for Seattle-Northwest Securities Corporation, where he performed public finance banking and financial advisory services to municipal jurisdictions, primarily in Oregon.
Fernandez holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico City, a master’s degree in Business Administration from Yale University, a Utility Management Certificate from Willamette University, and a Utility Executive Certificate from the University of Idaho.
He currently serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Board of Directors for the bank’s Omaha branch. He is one of three directors appointed to serve who work outside of the banking industry. He also serves on the boards of directors for Habitat for Humanity and Bellevue University.
His salary will go from $426,378 in his current position to $695,000 when he transitions to his new role.
Fernandez is married to wife Belinda, and they have four children – ages 10, 7, 5 and 1 ½. Read more about him and his selection on OPPD’s The Wire.
After discussion, the board voted, today, to add language to Strategic Directive (SD) 7: Environmental Stewardship, to acknowledge climate change. Last month, the board invited public comment on this amendment via OPPDCommunityConnect.com. They accepted input over a month’s time, through May 14. The board considered and discussed stakeholder feedback received ahead of today’s vote. The approved addition reads as follows:
The OPPD Board of Directors recognizes the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, from human activity contribute to climate change impacts.
In addition, the board discussed and accepted the monitoring report for SD-3: Access to Credit Markets monitoring report. As shared in the report, OPPD’s retail electricity rates are 9.8% below the regional average. The report also shares OPPD’s strong financial position and credit rating, allowing lower cost access to credit markets. Acceptance of this report means the board finds the utility to be sufficiently in compliance with the directive.
In other action, directors:
- Approved the March and April 2021 Comprehensive Financial and Operating Reports, April 2021 meeting minutes and the May 20, 2021 agenda.
- Approved the sale of real property located at 602 E 1st in Omaha.
- Approved the exchange of real property located at 9090 S 180th in Omaha.
- Authorized the use of eminent domain associated with Power with Purpose, as necessary, for property and easement acquisition for energy delivery infrastructure projects through December 31, 2022.
- Received the monthly President’s Report. You can view this report by visiting OPPD.com/BoardMeeting.
Next month, the board’s public all-committees meeting will be held virtually, starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 15. To attend, please visit OPPD.com/CommitteeAgenda, and follow the Webex conference directions. The next monthly board meeting will be held in-person Thursday, June 17, beginning at 5 p.m. on the Legislative Level of the Omaha Douglas County Civic Center, 1819 Farnam St. However, virtual attendance is encouraged for physical distancing. To join virtually via Webex, please visit OPPD.com/BoardAgenda.
Pathways to Decarbonization workshops
OPPD has been hosting a series of virtual workshops outlining its Pathways to Decarbonization Study, giving the public an insight and technical "deep dive" on how the district is exploring ways its future power generation portfolio can support OPPD's goal of being a net-zero carbon utility by 2050, while maintaining affordable, reliable, environmentally sensitive energy services for customers. The next such workshop is May 26, from 4 to 6 p.m. Additional information, recordings of prior workshops, and event registration links are all available on OPPDCommunityConnect.com.