The exact nature of Brenda Hampton's departure as Independence Power & Light's general manager remains to be finalized, though City Manager Zach Walker acknowledged that philosophical differences in the difficult task to make IPL leaner played a part.
Hampton left her position late last week, less than six months after she had been on the job and amid some significant changes in the city's electric utility – winding down work at Blue Valley among them.
“We've got a directive from the council and a mandate from the charter to run the utility in a business-like fashion, to be as efficient as we possibly can,” Walker said Monday. Meeting that directive, he said, “is my chief priority.”
Hampton, like most city employees, did not have a contract, so any possible severance or settlement is unknown.
Assistant City Manager Mark Randall, who serves as director of public utilities, will oversee the department's day-to-day operations, as he did between Hampton's hiring and IPL deputy director Andy Boatright's resignation last summer.
“Mark will be more hands-on, with my expectation that the subject-matter experts to step up and help with the technical expertise,” Walker said. “Mark has more than 30 years of management experience; he can help find those efficiencies.”
When the City Council approved the city's 2019-20 fiscal year budget a couple weeks ago, it included $5.45 million in cuts to Power & Light to account for the four percent across-the-board electric rate cut the council voted for in May, after the budget had largely been hammered out. The cuts include $1.3 million in salaries and benefits – from a hiring freeze and whittling down personnel needed at Blue Valley – $2.239 million in operating and maintenance efficiencies and nearly $1.878 million in capital improvements.
Still to come this summer is the full cost-of-service and rate study for IPL.
During Hampton's tenure, the city decided to move forward with a gas-power contract out of Oklahoma – the first step toward closing the aging and expensive gas-fired generator at the Blue Valley power plant. The proposal process for that started before Hampton came aboard.
It also implemented a 2 percent rate cut in electric rates approved late last year – ahead of the upcoming four percent cut – and pulled the plug on a controversial smart meter project that analysts believed would save the city millions in the long run but also faced a possible ballot-box overturn. Hampton had been charged to work with the city manager's office and find efficiencies to accommodate the rate cut.