Four finalists for CPS board announced

January 04, 2010

By Anton Caputo and Tracy Idell Hamilton
San Antonio- Express-News

The CPS Energy board of trustees will interview four finalists Monday to replace Chairwoman Aurora Geis, who agreed to resign after a communications breakdown between the utility’s nuclear team and the board that has left the proposed project in shambles.

The finalists were culled from 15 applicants to represent the northwestern quadrant of the utility’s service area. The four were announced at Monday afternoon’s board meeting:

— Nancy R. Kudla, retired from dNovus RDI

— Charles E. Foster, retired from AT&T

— Gary Cram, president of CRAM Roofing

— Brian Herman, vice president for research at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

The board hopes to pick the new member next Monday or Tuesday. If so, the City Council could ratify the selection two days later.

Mayor Julián Castro pushed for Geis to resign last month after it was revealed that a nuclear expansion project’s cost estimate billions of dollars more than what the utility’s management had told the public was kept from the board.

Two high-level executives of the nuclear development team also resigned, and one was reassigned.

"I am very impressed with the group," Geis said about the applicants.

Kudla, a former Air Force officer, was part of the first female class of graduates from the U.S. Air Force Academy. She launched dNovus RDI, a technology company, in 1989 and sold it in 2008 for $38 million.

In the past year, she and her husband started a charitable foundation, and Kudla said she has the time to devote to CPS.

Calling herself "an average citizen" on energy issues, Kudla said she’s been studying the topic in the weeks since a handful of community members asked her to consider applying for the position.

In addition to her 19 years as an entrepreneur, Kudla said she’s always taken a keen interest in governance issues when she’s served on boards, including a presidential appointment to the one that oversees the Air Force Academy.

"I’m a big-time governance gal," she said. "A public entity has a different kind of nature than a traditional business, and I suspect somewhere along the way CPS may have strayed from there."

Foster is a former group president at AT&T. He comes recommended by former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre and John Montford, who expressed an interest in the CPS position before taking a job under his former boss, Whitacre, who is now chairman and CEO of General Motors.

Foster couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

He and Kudla were the two finalists on every current board members’ list of top choices.

Cram founded his roofing company 23 years ago and still oversees its daily operations. A former board member of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Cram said he believed in public service. Acknowledging the time commitment required, he said he was up to the task.

"I think that people need to be involved in our community," he said. "I think CPS is a great organization and someone needs to step up and deal with the issues at hand."

Herman, who moved to San Antonio in 1998, said he, too, was interested in making the city a better place. While he runs his own research lab and oversees and coordinates all research at UTHSC and its partners, Herman is also a San Antonio Housing Authority board member.

"Energy and water are critical to the success of this community," he said, adding he’d bring a scientific and business background to the position.

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