The Department of Energy is hoping to name a new BPA administrator by the end of the month and has interviewed five candidates this week, according to several sources.

The list of candidates includes three current BPA executives and two external applicants, according to a note the Public Power Council sent to its members and conversations with people familiar with the process.

A DOE spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

"We have confirmed through a number of sources that the U.S. Department of Energy is conducting interviews by a three-member panel of federal employees throughout this week with five candidates for the BPA Administrator job," PPC said in its note to members.

The three internal candidates are:

  • John Hairston, interim administrator and 30-year veteran of Bonneville. Before being tapped for the interim administrator role, Hairston had been COO since October 2019. Prior to that, he spent two years as BPA's chief administrative officer.
  • Michelle Manary, executive VP and CFO, has been with BPA since 1998 and held several management positions with the agency. She was VP of Transmission Marketing and Sales from 2015 to 2018. Prior to that, she was VP of Northwest Requirements Marketing and director of Strategy Integration at BPA.
  • Joel Cook, senior VP of Power Services, joined BPA in June 2017. Cook came to BPA from Talen Energy where he was the VP of Retail Marketing and Western Trading. Cook has over 25 years' experience in wholesale and retail energy commodity sales, marketing, trading, supply, operations and risk management.

Three sources said Mark Gabriel, the administrator and CEO at Western Area Power Administration since 2013, was also being interviewed for the administrator job. Before joining, WAPA, Gabriel was senior VP for Black and Veatch Management Consulting, and oversaw the expansion of Halcrow, a 158-year-old British firm, into its North American energy practice.

A spokesperson for WAPA could not be reached for comment.

Three sources told Clearing Up that Greg Zarzan, currently the principal deputy solicitor at U.S. Department of the Interior, is also being interviewed.

Zarzan is perhaps the least known candidate. He's a Portland native and earned an undergraduate and law degree from Willamette University. Prior to joining the Department of Interior, he served as counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce from September 2017 to March 2019.

He was a director at Koch Industries from March 2010 to August 2017, where he managed Koch's U.S. and international government relations and financial regulatory policy.

Zarzan's resume also includes a stint as senior fellow of International Derivatives Law at the University of Melbourne College of Law from 2009 to 2012. He was counsel and head of global public policy for the International Swaps and Derivatives Association from 2006 to 2010.

Zarzan began his career in government at the U.S. Treasury Department as acting assistant secretary for financial institutions where he served from 2003 to 2005.

The speed at which DOE is moving to fill the administrator position took some in the region by surprise, and several people interviewed for this story questioned what kind of role the Northwest congressional delegation would play in the selection, since the selection could be announced in the next two weeks.

It's widely assumed that the delegation has a say in who is picked to run BPA, but as one long-time lobbyist said, "The process seems to be new every time they do it."

The last four administrators—Elliot Mainzer, Bill Drummond, Steve Wright and Judith Johansen—had previous experience working at BPA before being tapped to be administrator.

Editor - Clearing Up

Steve began covering energy policy and resource development in the Pacific Northwest in 1999. He’s been editor of Clearing Up since 2003, and has been a fellow at the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and University of Texas.