On one of his final days as the president of Alaska Energy Light &Power, Tim McLeod was talking about eagle poop.
He was reflecting on the highlights of his 34-year career with the company Thursday, speaking to a full house at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He spoke of working long hours during snowstorms, the advent of new technology along the way and the projects that the energy company has completed.
The biggest crowd reaction, however, came from what McLeod called “the mystery outages of ’83 and ’84.” One area of wiring kept sustaining damage over and over, but nobody could figure out what it was. One manager suggested to McLeod, who was an engineer at the time, that it might be an eagle defecating on the wire.
“It’s gotta be something else,” McLeod told him.
AEL&P employees camped out near the area, which had to be repaired 11 times due to the mysterious damages. One day, a fisherman called. Sure enough, he had seen an eagle perch above the wire and, as McLeod described it, “let loose.”
As a result, AEL&P installed spiky coverings for the wires in that area to dissuade eagles from perching there anymore. The poop would disturb the community no longer.
Though not all of the outages and issues in McLeod’s 34 years at AEL&P were quite as humorous as that one, they all required a little problem solving and a lot of teamwork. Leaving that team after 15 years as the President and General Manager is bittersweet for McLeod, whose last day at work is Friday.
McLeod spoke for nearly an hour at Thursday’s luncheon, reflecting on decades of memories with the company. The presentation became interactive after a while, with McLeod asking the crowd of about 60 people if they remembered various events of the past three decades.
Many nodded their heads in approval, including former AEL&P President Bill Corbus, who smiled through much of McLeod’s presentation. Also in attendance was Connie Hulbert, who is taking over for McLeod. She has been the Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer since 2002, and said it was an honor to work alongside McLeod for as long as she did.
“It’s bittersweet,” Hulbert said. “He’s obviously been there a lot longer than I have, but we have been through a lot together.”
In looking at the past, McLeod couldn’t help but look to the future as well. He’s bullish on the hydroelectric plant that’s set to be built at Lake Dorothy south of Juneau, which he called the “best project that’s happening in Juneau.” He’s also pleased with the company’s owner, Avista Corp., which purchased AEL&P in 2014.
He made sure to give credit to Corbus before him and to express his excitement about Hulbert taking over.
“I can’t tell you enough about Connie,” McLeod said near the end of his presentation. “You really are in good hands there. She knows how important it is, first that we have low rates, because that’s good for the economy here, but it’s also critical that we spend enough money that we have a reliable system.”
Maintaining that balance is a major part of the job, along with figuring out solutions to odd power outages. He closed his presentation with a joke, ready to step away from the spotlight.
“If anybody has any questions,” McLeod said, “I’d be happy to have Connie answer them.”
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