When Tucson Electric Power first created the Wholesale Marketing department in the mid-1990s, two employees were selected as the company’s first day traders – Michael Bowling and David Hutchens.
It was a busy time for Wholesale Marketing. TEP had an abundance of excess power in a volatile, fast-paced market, making for long, exciting workdays and raising the department’s profile with company leadership.
“After working with Dave and seeing his abilities, I told him I felt he would be president of the company before I retired,” said Bowling, now Director of Wholesale Marketing.
Hutchens indeed became President, and in 2014 he was named Chief Executive Officer, taking over for Paul Bonavia, who retired after five years at the helm of TEP.
Hutchens is the first “homegrown” CEO in company history, having worked his way up over nearly 20 years. His deep-rooted knowledge of the company and its employees serve him well as the company builds a sustainable energy future for Southern Arizona.
Midwestern, Navy Roots
A Minnesota native, Hutchens came to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona and studied Aerospace Engineering while also enrolling in Navy ROTC. Upon graduation, he was commissioned in the Navy and spent five years as a nuclear submarine officer. He was intrigued by the academic rigor required of the program – it was challenging, and he liked the combination of technical and hands-on learning.
Wanting a career that was more conducive to raising a family, he left the Navy and utilized his engineering degree as a process engineer for a company on the East Coast.
He and his wife, Cathy, however, missed Tucson, her hometown, and they decided to move back. He went to work for Magma Mining Co. in San Manuel north of Tucson, but he soon grew tired of the 90 minute one-way commute.
He looked to get a foot in the door at TEP, seeking a shorter drive and a job with an organization that offered opportunities. When a position as an energy efficiency analyst opened up in 1995, he jumped at the prospect. “It was analytical enough, and I was able to use my engineering skills,” Hutchens said.
Vickie Boes, now retired, was tasked with getting Hutchens settled into the department. “He had a great sense of humor,” she said. “He enjoyed a challenge and wasn’t afraid to step out of the box.”
Growing Wholesale Marketing
In 1996, when FERC mandated separation between energy purchasing/selling and transmission, TEP formed Wholesale Marketing. A colleague told Hutchens about the day trader opening and urged him to apply.
“I didn’t even know what Wholesale Marketing was,” Hutchens said. “A co-worker explained that we purchase and sell electricity in the wholesale markets in order to supply electricity more economically, and I thought, ‘That sounds interesting. I’ll throw my name in the hat.’”
Toby Voge, who was the hiring supervisor, had about 20 applications for the two openings. Seeing Hutchens’ education and work history, Voge moved his application to the top of the stack.
“He was very articulate and personable,” recalls Voge, now Senior Director of Special Projects. “We were looking for someone with both analytical and people skills who could assess the market’s risks and opportunities and filter out garbage from real information.”
A month or two after Hutchens joined Wholesale Marketing, five 24-hour traders – including Carmine Tilghman – were hired to round out the department.
Even in those early years, it was evident that Hutchens was a natural leader, said Tilghman, now Senior Director of Energy Supply. Hutchens was curious, driven and self-confident.
“No matter the challenge, he believes that he will exceed expectations,” Tilghman said. “It’s that self-driven confidence that allows him to succeed in everything that he does.”
In Wholesale Marketing, Hutchens learned a lot about various aspects of the business: generation, transmission, accounting, financial and legal. “It was fertile ground,” he said. “Nearly every part of the organization was somehow touching the wholesale area.”
Leading UES Gas Operations
The group’s success earned Hutchens face-time with upper management and, in 2003, an opportunity to oversee UniSource Energy Services’ natural gas operations upon the acquisition of system assets from Citizens Communications. “I understood some of the gas business because my responsibilities in wholesale included procuring natural gas for our power plants,” he said.
Nathan Shelley, now Senior Director of UNS Gas, said Hutchens was knowledgeable and personable and always had an open-door policy. Hutchens, he said, had the unique ability to lead the team while also serving as a member of the team.
“Everyone on the gas side has full confidence in Dave as our CEO,” Shelley said.
Expanding Renewable Resources
In May 2009, Hutchens was promoted to Vice President of Energy Efficiency & Resource Planning and given responsibility for compliance with new renewable power and energy efficiency standards. His success is reflected in the company’s portfolio of customer-friendly conservation programs and the dramatic expansion of its renewable energy resources, including company-owned systems and local utility-scale arrays developed through power purchase agreements.
He also oversaw development of the Bright Tucson Community Solar program, an innovative ownership model that has inspired similar programs at utilities across the country. These and other efforts earned TEP national acclaim as a renewable energy leader while establishing Hutchens’ ability to successfully address the energy industry’s emerging challenges.
“Paul gave me a great opportunity but it came with a pretty tall order. After being promoted in May, he asked us to prepare an Integrated Resource Plan that included our renewable energy strategy, and he wanted it be ready for the Board by August. Thankfully, we had a great team with members from several departments who worked extremely hard and we got it done,” he said.
Stepping Up to CEO
Hutchens was named Executive Vice President in March 2011 and became President in December 2011 pursuant to a succession plan established by UNS Energy’s Board of Directors.
“Dave’s obvious talents and many contributions have made it clear that he’s ready to take the next step toward leadership,” Bob Elliott, the Lead Director of UNS Energy’s board, said at the time.
Further steps soon followed. Hutchens was named Chief Operating Officer in August 2013 and assumed a seat on UNS Energy’s board four months later, just in time to join the unanimous vote approving the proposed acquisition agreement with Fortis.
All along, Bonavia was a solid mentor, working with Hutchens to develop the company’s future plans. “He provided guidance and overall direction as we developed our strategy for the future,” Hutchens said.
Now as CEO, Hutchens believes his long history with TEP and UES will serve him well. “I’ve been here long enough and have worked in so many different areas that I have a good feel for the organization and our people,” he said. “I know the areas that are working well, and I know the areas where we have opportunities.”
Planning for the Future
With Hutchens as CEO, the company’s future is bright.
“Dave has the history, the background and the unique loyalty that come with putting so many years into this company. He has that personal perspective and the passion that comes along with experience,” Tilghman said. “This will help him move the company forward in ways that might not readily be apparent to someone from the outside.”
With Hutchens at the helm, the company will become more efficient, Bowling said. “Dave’s always looking ahead, and I think that’s something that will help us. He’s very good at forward-looking strategy.”
Shortly after he was named CEO, Hutchens called Bowling up to his office. Hutchens pulled out a brand new stack of business cards – with the title, President & CEO – and handed a card to Bowling.
“You believed I could do this before I did. I want you to have my first card,” Hutchens told him.
Bowling paused. He knew exactly what to say.
“Dave, I said it because I believed it – and I was right.”