Two decades after starting work as an electrical engineer in a male-dominated industry, Linda Moss has emerged as one of the new high-powered leaders in Northwest Ohio.
Moss, 48, became regional president of Toledo Edison in May. Her new domain is comprised of a 340-employee company, 310,000 customers in eight counties, 1,000 miles of transmission lines and 7,000 miles of distribution lines.
“I’ve always found it to be a great career path,” Moss said. “I understand it to be dominated with men, but not a challenge I wouldn’t overcome. I’ve always had a successful career. It’s been a good opportunity with me. It put me in a position to come into this role.”
Moss’ career trajectory started 26 years ago when she hired on at Potomac Edison — which became part of Toledo Edison’s parent company FirstEnergy in 2011 — at age 22. She had just graduated with an electrical engineering degree from West Virginia University.
Her first job was as a distribution lines engineer. Not only was her work in a male-dominated industry, but she worked on the operational side, something even more unusual for women, Moss said.
“The way I approached my career was one job at a time. I was focused on doing well in the position I held at the time. I always aspired to more and to take my career to the next level,” she said.
At one point, Moss was in charge of the construction of a brand-new transmission operations center. Calling the experience “invaluable” and “incredible,” Moss said she learned a lot about company operations, knowledge she brought with her to Toledo Edison. She also earned her master’s degree while working full-time.
“I can’t honestly say 26 years ago I thought I’d be in this position [as regional president],” Moss said. “I’m very humbled by the position. I think people recognize you for the work you do and the job you hold.”
Dennis Chack, president of Ohio operations for FirstEnergy, said he has no doubts Moss will serve her new customers well as the leader of Toledo Edison.
“Running a utility company requires a diverse set of skills, and Linda’s success in so many operational roles in our company, coupled with her engineering background and her management experience, made her the right person for this job,” Chack said.
Moss said Toledo rolled out the welcome mat for her after she relocated 400 miles from Hagerstown, Md., to assume her new post.
“Toledo is wonderful,” she said. “It’s just such a welcoming town and everyone here has made me feel a part of their family.”
Moss has spent the past seven months acclimating to a new city, new people and new responsibilities and said that to fill the big shoes left for her — by previous Toledo Edison regional president Randall Frame, who was promoted to regional president of Ohio Edison — she’ll continue to stay the course.
That means maintaining the company’s level of reliability and safety. People take utility companies for granted until they flick their switch and get nothing, she said, which is how it should be. People expect great service and she intends to exceed those expectations.
“Looking at Toledo Edison, we have the highest reliability rating of all public utilities in the state of Ohio,” Moss said. “We’ve held that level for three years.”
Moss wants to keep that rating and continue to help customers affected by storms, high winds or other outages restore their power as soon as possible. Her objective is to spend money on what’s called “reliability” projects, such as the $12 million recently spent on a Fulton County substation.
Toledo Edison spent $23 million on reliability projects in 2013. That includes $6 million on tree trimming, $6 million on pole replacement and $3 million in equipment upgrades. Another substation is planned for 2015 in the Perrysburg area, she said.
“Toledo Edison has provided excellent reliable service,” Moss said. “The challenge is to continue to provide this service.”
As she focuses on product delivery, she’s also keeping an eye to safety. Moss said she will maintain the company’s safety and first responder program, in which first responders learn about electricity and how to deal with electrical emergencies, such as downed power lines.
“Safety, it’s our highest priority,” she said. “Dealing with an invisible entity can be fatal. We respect it and try to provide safety services as best as possible.”
After two decades in the utility business, Moss has experienced a first at Toledo Edison. The company owns the Edison Plaza building, a high-rise in Downtown Toledo, making Moss a landlord for the first time. She said it’s given her the valuable opportunity to form relationships with her tenants, which include the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Regional Growth Partnership and many nonprofits.
She is currently gearing up for a new $2.8 billion program by FirstEnergy that will funnel money to Toledo Edison for projects to improve service, Moss said. Employees are now identifying equipment that needs replacing, like transmission lines and poles, in anticipation of the new money that may arrive in January or February. There’s no word yet on how much Toledo Edison will get, she said.
“It’s a fairly new project and we’re still working through the details,” Moss said
Moss’s husband, Jerry, made the move with her to Toledo, along with their 21-year-old daughter, who is attending Owens Community College, majoring in accounting. They also have two other grown children and three grandchildren.
When Moss is not working or serving on multiple boards, she enjoys playing golf and is already looking forward to the spring. She’s also involved in the community through Toledo Edison.
Moss did not identify any changes she would make as the new regional president, saying Toledo Edison was “well-run” for many years before her tenure. If she can maintain service and safety and customer satisfaction, then she will consider herself a success, she said.
Tags: Dennis Chack, FirstEnergy, Fulton County, Hagerstown, Linda Moss, Maryland, Ohio Edison, Owens Community College, Perrysburg, Potomac Edison, president of Ohio operations for FirstEnergy, Randall Frame, Regional Growth Partnership, Toledo Edison, Toledo Edison Regional President, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce
In these tough economic times, holidays like Christmas can be especially difficult for financially struggling families. This holiday, at least one family will have an easier time not only in the short term, but for the foreseeable future.
Toledo resident Heidi Krueger Middlebrooks was chosen from nearly 100 nominated families to spend Dec. 20 shopping with Toledo’s “Extreme Couponer” Joni Meyer-Crothers, who with her family has been featured on TLC’s “Extreme Couponing.” Middlebrooks went home with about $1,750 worth of groceries from the shopping trip and a donation from Meyer-Crothers’ stockpile.
“It was really cool and a lot of fun,” Middlebrooks said. “I was glad to learn from her. I learned a lot of information. It’s nice because now we have a head start.”
Meyer-Crothers partnered with Toledo Free Press to provide a better Christmas to a citizen in need, and to teach them how to shop the way she does, saving the family money in the long run.
Meyer-Crothers said she hasn’t spent $200 on groceries during a month’s time in the past three years, despite the fact she buys about $5,000-$6,000 worth of groceries each month. She donates an estimated 80 percent to organizations such as Sylvania Area Family Services.
“Just looking at what she does and what she gives [to food shelters], she is just an awesome person,” Middlebrooks said. “I was in tears for days thinking, ‘How can I accept this help?’ I am working and I am grateful to have a job, but with seven kids it doesn’t really take care of what we need to take care of. I will pay this forward 100 times over. It’s so appreciated and I will continue to be able to coupon and provide for the family with this [knowledge].”
As part of the Toledo Free Press promotion, Columbia Gas of Ohio and FirstEnergy will cover the cost of the family’s January utility bills. Columbia Gas also donated a programmable thermostat, combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector and energy-efficient showerheads, which, once installed, will save Middlebrooks an estimated $180 on her bill each year. FirstEnergy also supplied Middlebrooks with energy-efficient light bulbs and tips on how save money.
It’s neat to have that opportunity to help somebody out,” said Columbia Gas of Ohio Communications and Community Relations Manager Chris Kozak. “To help somebody start off the new year is just exciting. It’s important to be involved and we are very appreciative that Toledo Free Press asked us.”
“We thought it was a great program,” said FirstEnergy External Affairs Manager Meg Adams. “It’s the community coming together. It’s very exciting.”
FOX Toledo provided television coverage for the promotion.
Christmas is a time for kids to be able to open presents from beneath the tree and Middlebrooks has received some help making that happen. A private philanthropy group donated $250 in gift cards to Target $200 to Toys ‘R’ Us. Kroger donated a turkey for a Christmas day meal.
“That was more than we expected,” Middlebrooks said. “I was really excited to learn about the couponing process, but when you add in all the extras — we were more than grateful.”
Challenges at home
Middlebrooks is no stranger to couponing. Albeit nowhere near the level of Meyer-Crothers, she tries to save money whenever she can. At one point, she was told she didn’t qualify for food stamps because she made $14 over the cutoff. Instances like these inspired her to experiment with coupons to look for savings.
“I knew a little bit about couponing,” Middlebrooks said. “My friends always called me the ‘Coupon Queen’ too. I probably saved 20 or 30 percent — now I will save a lot more. Joni taught me how she was doing it so that I will be able to do it and continue doing it.”
Middlebrooks was a mother of two when she met boyfriend Brad Perry. The two, who have dated for six years, moved in together, bringing Perry’s four children into the home. They later had a son together, giving the home a total of nine occupants.
Living with so many people has been further complicated with the struggles Perry, a self-employed brick mason, has faced seeking work. He stays home to take care of the kids, some of whom have health challenges. That leaves the family dependent on Middlebrooks’ salary as a parent educational case worker at Lucas County Children Services.
“Unfortunately, the way the economy is there’s not as many people doing building or repairing to their homes,” Middlebrooks said. “This year he has not worked hardly at all, so it’s my income that’s trying to support seven kids and two adults. Bills have got us behind a little bit so it’s nice to know that we have some help with those.”
“I’m just grateful,” Perry said. “Everything else will fall into place. Money will get better, we will be able to help pay bills back.”
Those struggles would have impacted Christmas this year for Middlebrooks and her family. Before being chosen for the promotion, she said she had told her children, who range in age from 4 to 19, that there would not be presents this year.
“We told the kids, especially the older ones, that this year was not a good year for us,” Middlebrooks said. “We said, ‘You are going to be without [presents] … We really just can’t do as much as we want to for you.’”
The shopping experience
For as positive of an experience as the trip was, it was not without its drama. A shipment of coupons scheduled to be delivered to Meyer-Crother’s home were lost in the mail.
“I was very sad my coupons didn’t come in,” Meyer-Crothers said. “I overnighted them but all the post office could say was, ‘I’m sorry.’ We were going to do about $600 and it was only going to be about 50 cents.”
As a result, Meyer-Crothers wasn’t able to quite replicate the success she usually has, but the “Extreme Couponer” still provided outstanding results at Kroger on King Road.
Middlebrooks left with $256.08 worth of products for a total of $41.58, which was paid for by Toledo Free Press. She also received an estimated $1,500 worth of products from Meyer-Crothers’ personal stockpile at home.
Middlebrooks will receive a special order of 100 boxes of rice delivered to the store to use with 100 coupons Meyer-Crothers provided. With the coupons, the rice will cost just $9, or nine cents per box.
Despite saving nearly 84 percent on the grocery bill, Meyer-Crothers wasn’t satisfied. She informed Middlebrooks that she would take her shopping again in the future, this time with her full arsenal of coupons.
“I’m going to take her again once the coupons come,” Meyer-Crothers said. “We will wait for a better sale than the one this week, but we got them a good Christmas basket and gave almost $1,500 from our stockpile.”
More than a one-time gift
Meyer-Crothers made sure that this wouldn’t be just a single boost for Middlebrooks and her family. Meyer-Crothers, who teaches an extreme couponing class at her church, talked her through the experience, giving her tips to save on groceries.
“She was able to see what’s going on,” said Meyer-Crothers’ husband, Jamie. “That’s what was good about this. She learned how to do it.”
Some strategies include saving the coupon until the item goes on sale and ordering coupons from services in Florida and Texas, which offer more of a discount.
Not only does Middlebrooks want to continue to coupon, she wants to pass along the knowledge to others. She plans on teaching extreme couponing to her classes at Lucas County Children Services.
“My main thing from the beginning was to be able to help other people too, not only for myself but to be able to teach other people to do it,” Middlebrooks said. “I can’t wait to teach that to some of our parents. We know their dollars aren’t that great and to be able to teach them how to stretch their dollars and make things last is going to be wonderful.”
“That’s passing the blessing on,” Jamie said. “We helped her and she is in turn going to help other people in her situation.
“That’s all we can ask for.”
Toledo City Councilman Joe McNamara, at a Feb. 17 news conference, called for FirstEnergy to invest in solar energy. Specifically, he pointed to a 2008 state law (Senate Bill 221) that requires Ohio electric companies to develop renewable energies, with an emphasis on solar energy. The law mandates that a percentage of the companies’ electric distribution come from solar energy, or that the companies purchase Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) from other generators.
FirstEnergy has asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to excuse it from 2009 benchmarks as it said it could not find enough Ohio SRECs to purchase to meet the standard set by SB 221.
McNamara will chair a hearing of the Utilities and Public Service Committee on Feb. 28.
“I am publicly inviting FirstEnergy to attend this hearing and participate in the conversation,” McNamara said. “While the FirstEnergy subsidiaries legally have to answer to the PUCO for their failure to invest in solar, they ultimately have to answer to the communities to whom they serve. Investing in solar equals jobs. FirstEnergy should be a good community partner and invest in Toledo jobs.” (Read McNamara’s comments on page A4)
I met with McNamara on Feb. 18 to talk about his news conference. He has a long history of fighting for alternative energy and his actions on this topic are consistent with those efforts. McNamara has done his homework on the numbers, although as a businessman I would have preferred more direct communication between the councilman and the utility company before he went public to embarrass FirstEnergy with his criticism.
FirstEnergy, like its Columbia Gas of Ohio counterpart, is an easy target for politicians. Utility companies are businesses, but public perception often assumes they should be benevolent providers. It has long been a popular misconception that Northwest Ohio suffers from the state’s highest utility rates, a demonstrable falsehood. Now, the advent of alternative energy offers another stick to swing at the utility piñata.
First and foremost, it is important to note that I oppose any government effort to force one industry to subsidize its de facto competition. But it is the law, for now, and therefore must be respected. The PUCO has the responsibility to enforce compliance, and will undoubtedly hold FirstEnergy accountable.
But for McNamara, this is dicey territory in terms of Toledo’s business image and its need to connect the ways of today with the ways of tomorrow. And this week’s news that First Solar may be looking to open a factory in Arizona — coupled with news that Xunlight opened its new factory in China — makes me wonder just how dedicated the solar energy industry is to Northwest Ohio.
FirstEnergy is heavily regulated and watched by the government and the public. But it is still a business, and should enjoy the rights of any American business to make its investments and serve its shareholders as it sees fit, without excessive interference or bullying.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Investment in solar energy equals jobs for Toledo. We have received national recognition as a hub for solar energy. Public institutions like the City of Toledo, the University of Toledo and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority are all working on economic development opportunities related to renewable energy. On the private side, companies like Xunlight and First Solar have attracted investment and created jobs.
Unfortunately, a very important missing partner in this growing opportunity is FirstEnergy and its wholly owned subsidiary Toledo Edison. What is most perplexing about FirstEnergy’s lack of investment in solar energy is the fact that it is legally obligated to participate in the industry.
In 2008, the General Assembly passed a set of new laws mandating increased use of renewable energies. This legislation is frequently referred to as SB 221. Among the various requirements of SB 221 are solar benchmarks that mandate certain percentages of the electricity distributed by an electric distribution company (like Toledo Edison) to be generated from solar. The solar percentage gradually increases each year until 2024.
An electric utility company need not actually generate the electrons itself, but can elect instead to buy what are called Solar Renewable Energy Credits or SRECs from other generators. Other generators can include small and large businesses, nonprofit institutions such as the Toledo Museum of Art, or homeowners. The creation of SRECs made a very flexible market for the electric distribution companies to meet the requirements of SB 221, but still promote the demand for more solar energy.
FirstEnergy has two other electric distribution subsidiaries in Ohio: the Ohio Edison Company and The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company. All three subsidiaries failed to meet the solar benchmarks required by state law. For Toledo Edison, this is the second year in a row the company has failed to obtain the necessary SRECs. Last month the FirstEnergy subsidiaries filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to be excused from the 2010 solar requirements.
According to its application, the FirstEnergy subsidiaries issued Requests for Proposals to buy Ohio SRECs. Through this process they obtained 112 SRECs out of the 3206 SRECs it was legally obligated to obtain. FirstEnergy complains that the “Ohio SREC market is constrained,” but it did nothing to facilitate the growth of this market. Where other electric distribution companies entered into long-term power purchase agreements, which helped finance the construction of new solar arrays and the consequent production of new SRECs, FirstEnergy “considered long term contracts but could not negotiate a contract that would provide SRECs for the 2010 calendar year.”
In other words, FirstEnergy attempted to buy SRECs that were already on the market, but did nothing to create new solar projects and new 2010 SRECs. The entire point of SB 221 was to foster the market for solar by requiring electric distribution companies to invest resources in obtaining SRECs.
Compare FirstEnergy’s approach with that of American Electric Power (AEP). AEP entered into a long-term contract with a company who built a 10 megawatt solar field 90 minutes south of Toledo. The solar panels used to build the array were manufactured by First Solar. In other words, an electric company that does not even serve the Toledo area has done more to create jobs in the Toledo area than our very own Toledo Edison.
The 2010 solar benchmarks were met by other Ohio electric distribution companies. But unsurprisingly, all three of FirstEnergy’s subsidiaries failed to comply with the law.
Investing in solar power is particularly important to Toledo because of the opportunity to create jobs. In the past, FirstEnergy has helped Toledo with economic development and financial issues.
For example, in 2009, FirstEnergy Solutions contributed $3.2 million to reduce the city’s budget deficit in exchange for an electric aggregation contract extension. However, when it comes to solar energy, FirstEnergy just can’t see the light.
Representatives from Toledo Edison and FirstEnergy have made statements clearly indicating that the company does not support solar. For example, Trent Smith has stated that the economics of solar power are not viable in the Toledo area. FirstEnergy spokeswoman Ellen Raines stated that “[w]e don’t believe we have the expertise to be a solar developer.” How can a company that runs multiple nuclear power plants not be able to find the resources and expertise to develop legally mandated solar arrays?
While FirstEnergy may ultimately be fined by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for failing to invest in solar, the real loss are the Toledo jobs that would have been created had FirstEnergy complied with the law. I sincerely hope that FirstEnergy will reverse its intransigence toward SB 221 and begin to actively invest in Toledo solar jobs.
Joe McNamara is a Toledo City Councilman. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Randall Frame has been named regional president of Toledo Edison for FirstEnergy Corp. based in Akron. Frame will assume his new position upon the completion of the proposed merger of FirstEnergy and Allegheny Energy, which could happen as early as Feb. 1.
The proposed merger was announced in February 2010 and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011. FirstEnergy reported that shareholders of both companies approved proposals related to the merger.
It has received approval from the state regulatory agencies in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland and is awaiting approval in Pennsylvania. It does not require approval in Ohio since it doesn’t involve the acquisition of any utilities here, according to FirstEnergy.
“I’m excited about the area, the opportunity and it appears to be a great place to live. I have been to Toledo many times on business and look forward to getting involved there soon,” Frame said.
Knowing how important it is to take care of customers since they are what make the company, Frame said he will do his best to provide continued customer service to commercial and residential customers in Northwest Ohio.
Frame will be responsible for approximately 400 Toledo Edison employees in Northwest Ohio but not directly for any power generation employees at the Bayshore or Davis-Besse facilities, he said.
Frame has worked at FirstEnergy for 28 years, joining the company in 1982 as an engineering assistant. In 1990, he was promoted to engineer and in 1994 was named industrial marketing supervisor. In 1997, Frame was promoted to director, Sales, and in 2004 was promoted to director, Energy Delivery Supply Chain. He was named as director of Utility & Corporate Sourcing, Supply Chain, in 2009.
Frame earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in electrical engineering technology from The University of Akron.
He has worked in Akron, Mansfield, Springfield and Youngstown and now looks forward to coming to Toledo, he said.
He and his wife Pam are originally from the Akron area and are pleased to be staying close to their families in Ohio. They have two grown children, Mark and Megan, who live and work in Ohio.
Frame reported that they have begun looking at homes in the Toledo area.
FirstEnergy was created in 1997 by combining Cleveland Electric Illuminating, Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison. It later acquired GPU, Inc. a utility operating in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Allegheny currently operates in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
FirstEnergy retains the local operating company names to maintain established relationships with local customers, said a company spokesperson.