Closed Circuit

By Lisa Meiman​

On June 19, Jack Murray took the helm as Desert Southwest’s senior vice president and regional manager.

“Jack’s extensive WAPA-wide and DSW experience, coupled with his strength in building and maintaining productive and positive relationships, will serve WAPA and customers very well in this time of rapid industry transformation,” said Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau in her announcement. “He consistently demonstrates his in-depth institutional knowledge, which informs a customer service focus that is always inclusive and mission based. WAPA as a whole will benefit from his executive management and collaborative leadership style.”

About 350 federal and contract employees at DSW market and deliver renewable, reliable and cost-based federal hydroelectric power and related services to nearly 70 municipalities, electric cooperatives, federal and state agencies, irrigation districts and Native American Tribes in the southwestern U.S. from the Hoover, Parker and Davis dams along the Colorado River. DSW operates more than 40 substations and 3,100 miles of extra-high-voltage transmission lines.

Murray has more than 20 years of energy industry experience, specifically in DSW. He began his career in the region in 1999 as a financial analyst. He cultivated his knowledge and experience and moved up the ranks to rates manager, vice president of Power Marketing and VP of Transmission System Asset Management. Between 2020 and 2022, he served as acting senior vice president and regional manager for both Rocky Mountain and DSW. Before joining WAPA, Murray served several years in the banking industry and the Small Business Administration in Seattle, Washington. 

He holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Finance from the University of Washington.

Closed Circuit sat down with Murray recently to learn more about him.

Jack Murray portrait

What brought you to WAPA initially?

I initially came to WAPA to have a bit of control over my own destiny. I was working for SBA in Seattle, and they were going through major re-structuring and “right-sizing.” That’s government speak for getting the organization smaller without doing a reduction in force.

At the time they used a lot of “directed re-assignments,” and I knew that if I stayed in the job I had, which had definitely lost its attractiveness, there was better than a 90% chance I would be re-located to Herndon, Virginia, or Hazard, Kentucky. Not wanting to go either place, and recognizing that if I was “offered” a directed re-assignment and said no, my federal career would be done, I started looking in places where I would actually want to live and raise my family, Phoenix being one of those places. 

I was a finance guy and applied for a position as a financial analyst in DSW’s Accounting and Finance Division, as it was called then. I “gave WAPA two years” to see how I’d like working here. In late October, I will have been here 23 years, and I still love it!​

What has been your most rewarding experience at WAPA so far? 

There have been so many it is really difficult to name one as “most rewarding.” But one that ranks very high came during the negotiations for the Hoover power contracts in the 2016 timeframe.

When Hoover was allocated under the current criteria, there ended up being several very small allocations. I wondered at the time, “who could possibly benefit from such a small allocation of power?”

During the contract development process, several of us from the Power Marketing division were consulting with one of the Native American Tribes that had received one of those small allocations. I will never forget the emotional statement made by one of the elders, telling us that with the money they were saving on their utility bills by having the Hoover allocation, they were finally going to be able to bring running water onto their land. This was 2016. Besides putting a lump in my throat, it made me realize why I’m such a believer in WAPA’s mission. I remember thinking, “THIS is why we do what we do!”

How have your previous roles at WAPA prepared you for your new role as DSW manager?

I’ve been fortunate during my career at WAPA to have served in several roles, from a financial analyst in Finance to the Maintenance manager. These have helped me build a big picture perspective of WAPA’s mission and how we go about delivering on that mission.

Also, my earliest roles showed me the importance of building and maintaining positive and professional working relationships with our customers. WAPA doesn’t exist without support of our customers. 

I also had the opportunity to serve on various task forces for WAPA-wide initiatives, such as Operations Consolidation implementation, our Organizational Approach to Markets efforts and as a member of the Joint Operations Team, which was an outcome of the 2012 “Chu Memo.” 

All of these efforts looked at ways to potentially make WAPA even stronger. All of those efforts allowed me to get to know folks from all areas of the organization and broadened and deepened my knowledge of how all of our parts and pieces work together to deliver on WAPA’s mission. 

Any advice I’d give to everyone that asked, even when they don’t ask: Learn as much as you can about WAPA and our industry. As you do, you’ll become even more aware that it takes every one of us to make this machine that is WAPA run effectively.

What is something most people do not know about you? 

I’m a first-generation college graduate—the youngest of six children as well as being the youngest of a slew of grandkids and cousins. While my family didn’t have post-high school formal education, Dad was very well read and encouraged education beyond high school for my immediate family. I really believe he encouraged education because he saw how good I was working with my hands, and he was afraid that if I had to rely on that “talent” I’d starve to death or have to live with him forever.

What are you reading right now? Do you have a favorite author?

I’m currently reading “The Boys in the Boat.” It came out several years ago, but I never got around to reading it.  It’s the story of the University of Washington crew team that came from nothing, really, and went on to win the 1936 Olympics. More than that, it’s the story of teamwork and perseverance. I don’t have a favorite author really. I enjoy historical fiction as well as biographies of historical figures. I have read several books on Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant as well as on Wyatt Earp.   

What are your communication and leadership styles?

I try to be open and transparent in my communications and, as folks know who know me well, I prefer an informal style. I respect everyone enough to believe they deserve, and want, as much information as possible, especially when it comes to issues or questions that may impact major parts of their lives. I will tell you that I learned my children didn’t necessarily always want to know the “whys” behind my decisions: “OMG Dad, can’t you ever just say NO without the explanations?”

I’m a collaborative leader; I believe the reason things get done is because of positive relationships you build. That’s true both internally with colleagues and staff and externally with our customers. Working to build and maintain those relationships makes us a better, more effective organization.

I tend to come at all issues from the perspective of, “How can we make this happen?” There are times, of course, despite our most fervent desires, the answer may be no, but I always come at an issue from that perspective and expect the same from my folks. And one last note, I always try to remember to be kind. That doesn’t mean hard decisions don’t have to be made, but we can always use kindness and respect in doing so.

Would you tell us about your coworkers at home?

My lovely spouse is always either substitute teaching or being “grand nanny” for our granddaughters, so when I work from home, I generally have the house to myself. But I actually have three other co-workers, all of them with four legs and of the canine variety.

One, in particular, has been my constant companion from the start of the pandemic. His name is Dino. He became my alarm clock, barking at me from my office when it was time to go work, alerting me when it was his lunch time and barking incessantly when he has decided it’s time to leave work, which usually coincided with his dinnertime. I had to finally admit he became my boss!

Sadly, Dino has had some health issues this year and has lost his eyesight, but he’s still at my side. He’s below my chair as I’m answering this question, and he’s happy and in good spirits. Although he can’t play his favorite fetch game anymore, he is becoming a tug-of-war champ. He does cheat, however; he’s figured out if he bites at my fingers or toes, I will let go and he wins!

During WAPA’s period of maximum telework, what do you think was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a leader?

I think I learned, or reinforced, the importance of checking in on your people and really listening—listening to what’s being said as well as what isn’t being said. We’ve gone through a traumatic couple of years, and as leaders, it’s imperative that we care for our folks and understand that while we’ve all gone through the same storm, we are all fighting the storm from very different boats.

I’ve learned the importance of grace, both for each other and ourselves, and it reinforced the respect I have for WAPA’s people. For those of us in non-field and non-real-time roles, we pivoted to all telework all the time and continued to simply do what needed to be done. For our field and real-time (dispatchers and marketers) people, they never missed a beat. They kept doing what needed to be done to carry out our mission through periods of significant uncertainty. I can’t find adequate words to express how proud I am to be part of this team.

Note: Meiman is a public affairs specialist.

Last modified on March 5th, 2024