The Fayetteville Public Works Commission welcomed Elaina Ball as the new Chief Executive Officer and General Manager in December. Ball, who has 14 years of utility experience, is the first female leader in PWC’s 115-year history and just the 9th CEO/General Manager.
“Elaina has a wealth of experience in the electric industry, including generation, which is a huge asset for us,” said PWC Chair Wade Fowler.
“She’s been a leader at outstanding utilities including public power utilities in San Antonio and Austin, Texas," Fowler said. "She was highly sought after by several other organizations and we are very fortunate that she chose PWC and Fayetteville. We are excited about the future of PWC and what she brings to it.”
Ball came to PWC from El Paso Electric where she served as Senior Vice President in Operations and Administration roles. Since 2018, she oversaw functional areas of the company including Power Generation, Power Marketing, T&D, Customer Care, Technology, Safety, Environmental and Public Relations and Corporate Communications.
She was responsible for over 800 employees and helped El Paso set new records for annual customer satisfaction scores and earn its first JD Power top performing utility award in 2019. El Paso Electric is a regional electric utility that serves over 400,000 customers in west Texas and southern New Mexico.
Prior to joining El Paso Electric, Ball worked at Austin Energy, the publicly owned electric utility serving 450,000 customers in the Austin, Texas, area.
Ball served as Vice President, Technical Services at CPS Energy, the municipally owned electric and gas utility serving over 800,000 customers in the greater San Antonio area from 2006-2012.
Fayetteville PWC is a municipally owned utility that provides electric, water and wastewater service to over 118,000 customers in Fayetteville/Cumberland County. PWC has over 600 employees and is the 37th largest municipal electric utility
in the U.S.
“I’m very excited to join the great team at PWC and for our family to be a part of this community,” said Ball. “PWC is a significant asset and plays a vital role in the community’s success. It is known throughout both the electric and water utility industry for its excellent operations and I look forward to continuing the legacy of strong leadership at PWC and continuing that excellence of providing safe and reliable service to our customers.”
Among Ball’s priorities is taking care of the team and customers and getting to know them better, she said.
“It's been terrific so far, the community has been so welcoming I have met so many different people from different industries, different fields and different walks of life and that’s something that struck me and it’s actually a big difference here in Fayetteville compared to the other utilities I was looking at before coming here,” Ball said.
With Ball’s leadership Fayetteville PWC is looking forward to updating its strategic plan, system work to maintain reliable service and supporting several projects already underway.
One such project is the PWC Community Solar, North Carolina’s first municipal community solar farm. The farm is a large-scale, ground-mount solar array offering electric customers a shared renewable energy option and an alternate to rooftop solar. Customers pay a monthly subscription fee and in exchange, receive a bill credit for the value of the solar less the cost to operate. All electric customers can participate as a subscriber in the program.
There are a number of benefits to the Community Solar project. It adds renewable energy to the local power grid without the effort and expense of installing solar panels at a home or business. Customers get paid for a portion of the power generated by the solar array.
Ball mentioned that anyone interested in helping provide cleaner, greener power for the community can visit the PWC website to learn more about installing panels, bill credits and moving toward an increased use of clean energy.
Among Ball’s priorities as the CEO and General Manager is ensuring that PWC remains customer-focused and keeps services safe and reliable while remaining cost affordable, she said. A personal driver and focus area for Ball is the improvement of the supply chain to help grow opportunities for local and diverse businesses, she said.
“As far as day-to-day, I am trying to spend the day in the field, trying to get to know our employees, see our facilities,” Ball said. “We are budgeting right now, and it really helps me get the sense of needs that the system has while getting to see the people, equipment and the business and challenges,” she said.
A native Texan, Ball attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about one-quarter of those working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, widely referred to as STEM, are women.
The number of women entering the professional fields of STEM is slowly growing around the world, but there is still a sizable gender gap in these professions.
Many women who do enter STEM fields and have successful careers like Ball do not necessarily consider themselves trailblazers, but simply do the best job they can in a field they enjoy.
In high school, Ball realized her love for mathematics and chemistry which led her to picking her current career path.
“I am a process person and love problem solving and being a chemical engineer is perfect for that,” she said. With a background in leadership roles, Ball said it is exciting to have this opportunity at PWC while representing women in a traditionally male career field.
Aside from work, Ball is looking forward to becoming more involved in the Fayetteville and Cumberland County communities. While working in Texas, Ball was an active civic leader, serving on the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Board of Directors. She is also a current Board of Directors member of the Association of Women in Energy.
An avid reader and snow skier, Ball is currently a member of the Fayetteville Running Club and hopes to join the local Kiwanis chapter and also find a local church to attend. Ball is married and has two children, but her family is still in Texas for now.
“But we have bought a house in the area and are renovating,” she said. “So I am really looking forward to my family joining me this spring.”
Pictured below: PWC CEO/General Manager Elaina Ball splits her time between work in the office and field visits getting to know PWC employess and facilities.