Changing of the guard at JCP&L; Don Lynch retires after stormy run

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Don Lynch, who led Jersey Central Power & Light through its darkest hours–the prolonged outages after Tropical Storm Irene, the Halloween Nor’easter of 2011, and Hurricane Sandy–is stepping down as company president.

LIGHTNING ROD: Don Lynch, who led JCP&L through its darkest hours, is retiring.
LIGHTNING ROD: Don Lynch, who led JCP&L through its darkest hours, is retiring.

He is retiring in June after 37 years at JCP&L and will be replaced by James V. Fakult, former president of Maryland operations for JCP&L parent FirstEnergy Corp., the corporation announced on Wednesday.

JCP&L’s response to the string of storms was sharply criticized by officials and residents who complained bitterly that they could not obtain timely, accurate information about restoration of power.

But Don Lynch’s retirement had been planned for some time and was not prompted by those events, according to JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano.

“Don has been a valued member of JCP&L’s management team and I will miss his knowledge, dedication, and the commitment to safe operations he instilled throughout the company,” FirstEnergy Corp. President Charles Jones said in a statement.

The incoming JCP&L president “has a proven track record of enhancing customer satisfaction and service reliability,” the statement said.

‘LITANY OF FAILURES’ IN MORRISTOWN

Jersey Central has had issues in Morristown beyond the storms. The company was rapped last year by the state Board of Public Utilities for an  “alarming litany of failures”  connected with recurring manhole explosions downtown; a Morris Township woman was injured by one of those blasts.

James Fakult will become JCP&L's new president, in June 2013.
James Fakult will become JCP&L's new president, in June 2013.

The utility subsequently invested heavily in upgrades to the town’s underground electrical network, and recently installed some “safety” manhole covers.

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty wished Don well, citing his “professionalism” and open-door policy. Much of the Mayor’s ire was aimed at Jersey Central’s parent company in Ohio.

“These were unprecedented storms that hit New Jersey. I think he did the best he could with what he had to work with,” the Mayor said of the outgoing president. “I think the fault lays with FirstEnergy. For many years they were not investing in New Jersey.”

While JCP&L has made significant improvements to Morristown’s underground system, the Mayor said he remains concerned about antiquated telephone poles and transformers in outlying areas of town. JCP&L is seeking rate increases to cover its storm-related costs.

“We can only hope that the Governor and the BPU and state Legislature can work on the electrical infrastructure of the state, whether it’s JCP&L or PSE&G (Public Service Electric & Gas),” he said.

VIDEO: DON LYNCH ON MORRISTOWN MANHOLE SAFETY

VIDEO: DON LYNCH PRAISES JCP&L AFTER IRENE

Some of the challenges during Lynch’s tenure can only be described as extraordinary. Tropical Storm Irene flooded the Whippany River, knocking out a power substation serving Morristown and Morris Township in 2011. Thousands of customers went without power for days on end as JCP&L scrambled to re-route electricity to the area.

Another local mystery, meanwhile, still is unsolved.

A massive explosion that rocked the Morristown & Township Library in 2010 remains unsolved. Jersey Central and PSE&G each denied responsibility for the blast.

Here is the official statement about leadership changes at JCP&L:

FROM FIRSTENERGY CORP.:

FirstEnergy Announces Leadership Changes at Its Jersey Central Power & Light Subsidiary

Akron, Ohio – FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) today announced that James V.Fakult, formerly president, Maryland Operations, has been named president, Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L).

He succeeds Don Lynch, who has elected to retire after more than 37 years with JCP&L. The change will be effective June 3, 2013.

In related organizational moves, Anthony Hurley, currently director, Operations Services, Toledo Edison, has been promoted to vice president of Operations, JCP&L, effective May 13, 2013. Ralph Hillmer, currently director, Operations Support, JCP&L, has been named director, Operations Services, JCP&L. He succeeds Craig Hotchkiss, who was named director, Operations Services, Ohio Edison.

In addition, Patricia Mullin, currently general manager, Regional Operations Services – East, JCP&L, has been named director, Operations Support, JCP&L. These moves will be effective April 29, 2013.

Fakult joined the company in 1987 as an associate marketing representative with Ohio Edison, another FirstEnergy subsidiary. Following a series of marketing-related promotions, he was named director, Sales, in 1999. In 2001, he was named director, Large Commercial & Industrial Segments and was later promoted to director, Customer Support. He was named general manager, Regional Operations Support, for Ohio Edison in 2008.

Following the FirstEnergy merger with Allegheny Energy in February 2011, Fakult was promoted to president, Maryland Operations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Cleveland State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Ashland University.

“Jim has been an important member of our utility management team for years and was responsible for the smooth integration process we experienced in Maryland as a result of the merger,” said Senior Vice President and President, FirstEnergy Utilities Charles E. Jones. “He has a proven track record of enhancing customer satisfaction and service reliability.”

Lynch joined JCP&L in 1976 as a power station engineer and was promoted to various management positions throughout the company’s generation operations. In the mid-1990s, Lynch began working on the utility side of the company, ultimately being named regional president of Central New Jersey for GPU in 2000. After the merger of FirstEnergy and GPU in 2001, Lynch was named president of the Central Region for JCP&L, and became regional president for Northern and Central regions in 2005. He was promoted to president, JCP&L in 2009.

“Don has been a valued member of JCP&L’s management team and I will miss his knowledge, dedication, and the commitment to safe operations he instilled throughout the company,” said Jones.

Hurley joined the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company in 1980 and was named manager, Regional Engineering Services in 2003. In 2005, he was named director, Operations Support, Toledo Edison, and in 2011 promoted to director, Operations Services.

Hillmer joined JCP&L in 2008 as director, Regional Operations Support – East, and was named director, Operations Support, the following year. Prior to joining JCP&L, he worked for Orange & Rockland Utilities, Inc., as general line supervisor.

Mullin joined JCP&L in 1985 in an administrative capacity and worked in a variety of positions prior to being named manager, Remittance Center, in 1994. The following year, she was named manager, Lakewood Line Shop, and in 1997, was promoted to manager, Customer Operations at Metropolitan Edison. In 2002, she was named manager
Regional Operations Services for JCP&L and was promoted to general manager, Regional Operations Services – East, in 2008.

JCP&L serves 1.1 million New Jersey customers in the counties of Burlington,Essex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren. Follow JCP&L on Twitter @JCP_L and Facebook at www.facebook.com/JCPandL.

FirstEnergy is a diversified energy company dedicated to safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. Follow FirstEnergy on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp.

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