Questions for AGM Ken Stone

For the February 14, 2024 Commission Meeting, Ken Stone will make a brief introductory statement and will be prepared to respond to additional questions from the Board of Gas & Electric Commissioners and the public that have been submitted via form at www.mged.com/question in by 10am on Friday, February 9, 2024.  MGED’s HR Staff may edit questions for clarity, Labor Law guidelines and to avoid redundancy.  

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During the Middleborough Gas & Electric Department’s (MGED) Commission Meeting on January 17th, the GM Search Team unanimously recommended Ken Stone as the next General Manager of MGED. The Board of Commissioners accepted the recommendation and following additional discussion, voted unanimously to enter into negotiations with Assistant General Manager Ken Stone.  The vote was not listed in the meeting agenda, so the vote will be retaken at the February 14 Commission meeting and the Commissioners will meet with AGM Stone during executive session to commence contract negotiations.

Ken Stone Bio - A lifelong Massachusetts resident, Ken Stone grew up in Weymouth and currently resides in Whitman. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Suffolk University. He brings a deep familiarity with and a passion for the municipal energy utility industry to his future role as General Manager of MGED.

Ken has worked at municipal light plants since the beginning of his energy career as a co-op student at Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant (TMLP) in 1994.  He joined the energy services staff at Braintree Electric Light Department (BELD) in 1997, and over time was promoted to manage energy services, accounting, procurement and NERC (cyber, grid and facility security) compliance during his more than 20 years at BELD. 

Ken has served on national and regional boards for the American Public Power Association (APPA) and New England Public Power Association (NEPPA), and has developed a strong appreciation for the tight-knit relationship between municipal utilities and the communities they serve. He loves that MGED customers care deeply and hold MGED’s performance in high regard, especially in challenging situations like storms.

In 2021, Ken brought his municipal utility experience to MGED as he stepped into a leadership role focused on continuing the organization's legacy of reliable service and customer satisfaction. He was drawn to MGED in particular because of his personal connection to the town - his parents moved to Middleborough in 2003 and his mother, Joan Stone, worked in the Town Health Department for ten years.

Outside of work, Ken enjoys volunteering as a youth sports coach and spending time with his family. Ken looks forward to many more years of serving the Middleborough and Lakeville communities.

                

The search process involved advertising the position in seven online job search sites which included natural gas/electric industry-wide publications. MGED received 33 applicants and a short list of five candidates with strong qualifications were asked meet with the GM Search Team for in person or virtual interviews and to provide written responses to a pair of pertinent questions.

 

 

The questions and AGM Ken Stone’s answers:


1.            Relationship management skills are a critical part of the General Manager job and you will be responsible for managing relationships with many key parties: customer/rate payers, employees, elected gas and light board/commissioners, Town government (Town Manager & Select Board members), State and Federal appointed and elected officials and the community at large. Please speak to your experience in communicating with each of these entities with a particular focus on your experience with dispute resolution.  

“My experience has shown that relationship management skills are a critical part of the responsibilities of an effective General Manager and being able to speak intelligently to all key parties is a top priority. During my three years of employment at MGED, I have had the privilege of building relationships with a variety of stakeholders.

A good example of building a collaborative relationship with customers /rate payers would be working with the leadership of the Wankinquoah Gun Club and the surrounding neighbors during the installation of a new access road required for MGED’s new substation. The gun club requested many changes and additions to the road and entry gate, and I worked with them every step of the way to make sure they were satisfied with the final product. I also worked collaboratively with some of the surrounding neighbors that were unhappy with the construction. By installing a new fence along the road, I worked with them to mitigate the noise and traffic issues they were experiencing.

As part of cross-training, and to better understand MGED and its employees, my first three years working at MGED were spent across each of the 3 divisions. I was able to interact with all the employees, learn about them from both a personal and professional point of view and build working relationships with everyone. I have been intentional about listening to and learning from each individual and, when a need arose, using my experience and perspective to provide guidance and assistance. That has contributed to building a trusting relationship with employees across the organization.

In regards to employee dispute resolution, I believe that most disputes can be handled quickly and effectively when both sides remain calm, demonstrate a willingness to listen and discuss the issue at hand. Conflict resolution is one of the main issues during any union contract negotiation, and I have been a member of the management negotiating team for multiple contracts over my career. These negotiations also occurred under several different general managers, so I was able to experience varying styles of conflict resolution. Having that experience, my approach to any negotiation would be to come prepared, present facts, listen to concerns, and have an open dialogue about why management can or cannot do something.

I have been able to develop a very productive working relationship with the board of commissioners over the years. I have presented several items for the board to vote on, most notably in regards to the new building construction, and had the opportunity to run one of the board meetings in the absence of the General Manager. At one point during the Owner’s Project Manager selection process for the new building, there was a difference of opinion amongst the board about which firm we should select. I worked collaboratively with all parties to find a solution that worked for everyone to keep the project moving forward.

Being able to work closely with the Town Manager, Select Board Members, and other Town Departments has been one of the most rewarding parts of my role to date. I enjoy working collaboratively with other departments to accomplish common goals. I have worked closely with many Middleborough town departments and department heads on important projects

including the new Electric Operations & Customer Service Building, construction of a new substation, installation of Electric Vehicle charging stations, removal of materials on Pine Street, the LEPC, and several other projects. I have also worked closely with the Historical Commission and presented to them in regards to the architectural plans for the new building, earning their appreciation for keeping historical aspects of the design intact, despite differing opinions.

A conflict within several Town departments recently came up over the removal of some poles and traffic gates in town. The poles were beginning to deteriorate and we felt it would be in the best interest of the Town to remove them for safety concerns. While it was an oversight in the process, we neglected to inform one of the Town departments of our intent. After removal was complete, we heard from the Town department that they should not have been removed. I personally went over to meet with the department head and listened to his concerns. We discussed the issue calmly and effectively, and resolved the matter quickly.

Over the years, and even prior to joining the MGED team, I have been able to attend many meetings involving state and federal officials. As part of the NEPPA Legislative group, I have been to Washington D.C. on several occasions to discuss important topics with local and national elected officials. I have learned that being direct, providing facts and being succinct is the best approach when speaking to elected officials or their representatives. Elected officials are incredibly busy listening to many different constituents with various concerns, so using the allotted time appropriately is important. Topics of discussion we have had with elected officials have included transmission rates, fuel supply and supply chain issues.”

2.            Because we operate in a fast-changing, increasingly global industry, we need to be forward-looking, and plan ahead for industry changes. Share your thoughts on impactful challenges for a municipal natural gas and electric company that will occur over the next 3-5 years.  Discuss your thoughts on impacts to operations, technology, and the need for increased efficiency and innovation.

“MGED will face several important challenges over the next 3-5 years, primarily due to the statewide mandate on decarbonization and the push for electrification. Over the last few years, and through careful planning on behalf of management, MGED has positioned itself to be a statewide leader in these efforts. MGED is already well ahead of the state mandated goal of 50% non-carbon emitting energy by 2030 and is continually evaluating other projects to increase our percentage. In the last 3 years, to help in these decarbonization efforts, I have assisted MGED in buying into several long-term renewable energy projects, helped to create and expand the Energy Services Department and helped to install six DC fast-charging Electric Vehicle charging stations in town.

Another challenge MGED will face, and primarily due to electrification efforts, is the construction of a new substation in South Middleborough. This new substation will be the second substation in Town and will be needed due to planned electric load growth and the need for resiliency and reliability. This new substation will have a significant impact to our operations as we look to install new poles, install new wire, re-route circuits and increase our transmission footprint. The planned increase in renewable energy projects such as off-shore wind, will also contribute to the size and scope of this substation. This project is currently in the review stage at ISO-New England.

In the gas division, the two major challenges in the coming years will be to complete the removal of all cast-iron piping in the natural gas distribution system and to install another non-pipeline alternative due to the constraints of the G Lateral. Both of these projects will have a major impact to our operations but are both needed for safety, increased efficiency and reliability. We have an obligation to serve our existing customers, and eventually, these changes could impact the current moratorium in place.

The last major challenge facing the department will be the renovation and construction of the existing Electric Operations Building into a much-needed Electric Operations & Customer Service Center. The new building will be able to house both Customer Service and Electric Operations departments in a safe, secure and functional building. The new building will be equipped with the latest technology to monitor our electric system and substations, allow our crews to effectively respond to outages quicker and give our employees a place they can be proud to work out of.

The challenges facing MGED over the next 3-5 years are critical to the success and to the future of the utility. We will always pride ourselves on supplying low-cost natural gas and electricity to our customers along with a high rate of reliability, and I am confident our staff of dedicated, caring, and hard-working employees can handle all challenges.”

In addition, all five applicants were asked to provide verbal feedback to the same interview prompts:

 

1. Please take a moment to tell us about yourself and your career.

 

2. What would you consider your greatest accomplishments? Please take a moment to discuss your part in making these achievements possible. 

 

3. What is your philosophy on steering an organization? What does success look like?

 

4. What vision do you have for this organization?

 

5. MGED’s service territory includes an environmental justice area, and extensive low and moderate income rental housing.  Discounted low/moderate income and elderly rates are available, as well as tiered rebates for energy efficiency resources.  Please discuss your experience administering and/or developing resources and communications for these members of the community.

 

6. How would you persuade your colleagues, employees, members of the commission board or other town departments who may disagree with your ideas? Can you walk us through a time this has happened to you? 

 

7. Describe your background in emergency response planning and operations.  Speak to your participation in workforce deployment under challenging conditions; participation with local resource agencies (local emergency planning committee, mutual aid; State emergency management and Federal Emergency Management Agency), and communications/messaging.

 

8. What would you say is your management style? How does this aid in the development of workplace culture.

 

 

For the February 14, 2024 Commission Meeting, Ken Stone will make a brief introductory statement and will be prepared to respond to additional questions from the Board of Gas & Electric Commissioners and the public that have been submitted via form at www.mged.com/question in by 10am on Friday, February 9, 2024.  MGED’s HR Staff may edit questions for clarity, Labor Law guidelines and to avoid redundancy.