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Event Report for the 2013-12-4 WIL Breakfast with FERC Commissioner Cheryl K. LaFleur
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When WCEE originally pursued FERC Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur to serve as a featured speaker for the Women in Leadership series, we did not know she would be named Acting Chairman just days before the event. The timing was perfect, as it allowed the audience of 100 women and men at the Cosmos Club to gain a deeper understanding of the important decisions the FERC Acting Chairman must make—ranging from priorities to her title.

LaFleur was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as a member of FERC in 2010 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a term that ends in June 2014. She became Acting Chairman on November 25, 2013. Just ten days later, in her first speech as Acting Chairman, she was sharing her vision for FERC with WCEE members, sponsors and partners. She also discussed her career path and offered "words of wisdom.” LaFleur’s rise to her current position was based on hard work and a strong senior sponsor in her first job in the electricity sector. She was the first in her family to attend college, and after working at a law firm for eight years, spent 21 years at National Grid USA and its predecessor New England Electric System, where she served many roles in management and legal counsel. When then-CEO John Rowe called upon her to be his right-hand person, she was at an "inflection point” but didn’t realize it. By 2007, she was number two in the U.S., and then named Acting CEO. When National Grid brought in an outside CEO to replace her, she decided to stay out of energy. This lasted for two years until the White House called upon her for the FERC position, after she "aggressively networked to get back into energy.”

 LaFleur did not come to Washington with an agenda and finds that she "brought an understanding of what it feels like to be regulated” to her interactions with stakeholders. She believes we are in the midst of a "transformation of power supply” driven by the natural gas glut and growth of renewables, among other factors. Given this, her FERC priorities are reliability and grid security, promoting regional transmission planning, and supporting a clean and diverse power supply—or "keeping the lights on and the gas flowing,” as she put it. In terms of her peers, she seeks to build consensus with the other commissioners around key issues like finishing the Order 1000 cases, managing transmission rates, and ensuring capacity markets are working well.

Introduced by Judy Neason of Williams, LaFleur is known as a "thoughtful, fair-minded” leader who "looks at issues from both sides.” Under her leadership, FERC aims to be "timely, fact-based, transparent and clear.” She will seek engagement opportunities across agencies and among stakeholders. This approach is critical to success, especially for government leaders.

How can you have a similar but personalized level of success? According to LaFleur, both a wife and a mother, three mantras guided her actions: "Bloom where you’re planted.” Essentially, don’t just act like you want to be there, really "want to be there.” Another is, "Be nice to everyone and don’t burn bridges.” Relationships are important. And finally, "Life is a movie, not a snapshot.” Don’t judge your success in one moment. This is "especially important for women,” she said, as we need to be mindful that we have "more chapters in our lives.”

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Calendar

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