Power to the People

David Hutchens, new president and CEO of Tucson Electric Power, and parent company
UNS Energy Corporation. Photo by Kris Hanning.

Power to the People
Far from childhood dreams of becoming a pilot, David Hutchens, new president and CEO of Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and parent
company UNS Energy Corporation says, “My career path had nothing to do with what I’m doing now.” TEP’s first CEO promoted from within, the well-spoken Hutchens embodies multifaceted leadership.

“My career has had a couple of different changes,” says Hutchens. “I was always excited about being a pilot, and went so far as to join the navy ROTC at the University of Arizona, earning a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering.”

Instructor and mentor Mike Quigley convinced Hutchens to shift his focus to nuclear submarines, offering a path rich in opportunities.
A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Hutchens chose UA because it had a good aerospace engineering program, and the great weather out here didn’t hurt, either. “I fell in love with Tucson and UA,” Hutchens says. “Tucson is a great size, big enough to have everything with small town charm.” He also fell in love with Tucson native Cathy Anaya whom he married.

His military commission had him supervising operations of a nuclear power plant onboard a submarine, moving seven times while stationed throughout the country. He and his wife always knew they would one day come back to Tucson, where they eventually raised daughters Danielle and Gabrielle.
Returning to Tucson was a leap of faith, Hutchens says. He got his foot in the door at TEP working with an energy efficiency group, counting light bulbs and auditing rebates, while thinking to himself, “…this might’ve been a mistake.”

Later he earned an MBA at UA so he could “understand the entire business, not just what I was working on.”
Peers recognize his innate leadership skills. “He’s got the discipline and tenacity of a naval officer and the sense of humor of a rock star,” says Joe Snell, president/CEO of Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc.

Robert A. Elliott, Hutchens’ boss, adds, “David came up through the company and at every level has stood out with promising potential.”
Promoted to vice president in 2007, his responsibilities continued to increase. From 2009 to 2011 more TEP operations were put under his management until “…the board unanimously decided he should run our company,” says Elliott.

Well known and well liked, Hutchens is described by those who know him best as a mild-mannered, soft spoken strong leader with outstanding critical thinking skills.
“We’re really here to improve the quality of life in our community,” he says. “Utility companies are not historically customer centric or focused, but a couple years ago my predecessor Paul Bonavia introduced a shift in culture, looking for ways to structure the organization a little more effectively.”

At 48, Hutchens is one of the younger CEOs and the only one who worked up through the ranks (all previous CEOs came into TEP at the executive level). As a result, “People trust him and want to follow him,” says longtime associate Ron Shoopman, President of Southern Arizona Leadership Council. Hutchens is all about meeting people and building teams that help TEP’s 1,400 employees provide service to 413,000 homes and businesses in a 1,155-square-mile area of Southern Arizona.

Hutchens enjoys the simple pleasures of running and working out. Although he does not play golf often — “I’m not that good at it” — he says he prefers to spend free time with his wife and kids. A choice between dance recitals with his girls or golf is no contest.

“I’m thinking this is my ideal life,” Hutchens says. “Running the organization, getting established in that role, and working with such great people and potential. Every day is different, challenging and exciting.”

Whatever his journey, Hutchens is right where he wants to be, part of a successful and philanthropic team serving Tucson and doing what he enjoys. “It is so important to give back to the community and to serve our customers the way they want to be served.” He projects that the next decade will see the most change in the utilities industry in the past 100 years.

Determining the right business model while integrating increasing amounts of solar power, efficient energy, and other new technologies to provide safe, reliable and affordable service is a big challenge, but Hutchens is up for the task.

“He is who he is and does what he does accordingly,” says Elliott. “With David what you see is what you get — integrity, sincerity and professionalism. That’s my guy!” — Laurie Laine