Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Flowers announces she is leaving Idaho Falls Power for job in Tacoma, Wash.

Jackie Flowers
I don’t think I’m alone when I say the best thing Jared Fuhriman may have done as mayor of Idaho Falls was hiring Jackie Flowers to run Idaho Falls Power, the city-owned utility.

Flowers, who came from Sheridan, Wyo., in July 2006, has tendered her resignation and is headed to Tacoma, Wash., to become that city’s director of public utilities. Her last day at Idaho Falls Power will be July 20. The move came as no surprise to anyone. Her youngest child, Mary, graduated from Idaho Falls High School this year. Considering her talent and reputation, I imagine there were a lot of bigger cities courting her.

“Jackie has not only served the utility well, she also served the community as president of the board for Partnership for Science and Technology, as a board member for EIRMC and as president of the Rotary Club,” said Mayor Rebecca Casper, in a press release. “(Her) tenure here at the city was one of great accomplishment and our city is a better place for her years of service. She will be missed by many throughout the community.”

Flowers led the utility in several major structural rebuilds, including the old lower plant, the dredging of sedimentation at the upper plant, as well as the advanced metering infrastructure upgrade. On her watch the utility accomplished these major renovations under budget and without significant disruptions in service to customers.

Idaho Falls Power also paid off major 30-year bonds in 2015, the same year the utility celebrated its 115-year anniversary. In 2017, the utility achieved RP3 status, an elite award for public power utilities celebrating reliability and safety.

The last 12 years have seen dramatic changes in electrical power distribution. One of Flowers’ first initiatives when she arrived was persuading the community to pass $26 million in bonds to fund Idaho Falls’ share in a new coal-fired plant, IPP-3, being planned near Delta, Utah. The effort was being led by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), a power wholesaling consortium in which Idaho Falls takes part. The concern at the time was for reliable baseload power, because Idaho Falls’ longstanding relationship with the Bonneville Power Administration was changing. Power for shaving peaks in the summer months was needed, and the concern was for avoiding high prices on the open market.

Idaho Falls voters approved the bonds, but IPP-3 ended up never getting built. Because of wind and solar coming onto the grid, the concern has been less with big baseload producers and more with balancing load with power that can be ramped up and scaled down fast, one reason for natural gas' ascendency. Eastern Idaho got a good lesson in balancing with the power outage of December 2013, which left a lot of people shivering in the cold for hours.

That was when Idaho Falls started talking to INL about studying microgrids and “islanding,” looking for ways to incorporate its run-of-river hydro with other sources to guarantee reliability when things get sketchy. With Idaho Falls Power and UAMPS, which she headed as president, Flowers has lent support for the small modular reactor NuScale is planning to have up and running at the Department of Energy’s Idaho site by the middle of the next decade. This is something the whole world is going to be watching.

One of the important roles Flowers helped fill was to develop a solid leadership team through training, development and involvement in leadership roles in industry organizations, with a strong focus on succession planning for the organization.

“It has been my privilege to work with the talented team at Idaho Falls Power as we have together served the citizens of Idaho Falls,” Flowers said in her letter. “You have a very talented, dedicated team of professionals … who take great pride in their work and in the fact that they continue the legacy of electric service to our community.”

Casper is expected to nominate a replacement for Flowers and to ask the City Council to approve the appointment at the next regularly scheduled City Council meeting.



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