After nearly 20 years at the helm of Central Maine Power Co., Sara Burns announced Thursday that she plans to retire at the end of the year.

Burns has been with the energy company for 30 years, starting in 1987 as manager of risk management. She was promoted to president in 1998 and was named CEO in 2005.

Sara Burns, President & CEO of Central Maine Power Image from YouTube video

“We thank Sara for her strong leadership of CMP,” said Bob Kump, CEO of Avangrid Networks Inc., CMP’s parent company, in a news release. “She is recognized as a civic leader in Maine and a respected professional throughout the energy industry.”

Business leaders in Maine described Burns as an effective business leader who has improved the lives of Mainers and helped boost the state’s economy.

Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors said Burns has excelled in her role as leader of a high-visibility company that provides essential services to residents and businesses.

“During her term, she handled that with a high level of dignity and commitment,” Connors said. “I have great admiration for the way she managed with confidence as well as commitment to the people she served.”

Burns also will step down from her oversight role for asset management and planning, business development and regulatory strategy at Avangrid Networks, according to the release. However, she will continue to provide strategic guidance to the company as a member of its board of directors starting in January.

Burns led CMP through multiple ownership changes, first to Energy East in 2000, then to Iberdrola in 2008 and finally to Avangrid last year. She also oversaw the company’s massive, five-year, $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Program. The project, which began in the summer of 2010, involved clearing 290 miles of right of way and stringing 450 miles of transmission lines from Eliot to Orrington.

She had just become chief operating officer in 1998 when the Ice Storm of ’98 struck, when 340,000 customers lost power in the depths of a frigid January. Most recently, she led CMP through its largest storm-related outage in the utility’s history, during which more than 400,000 customers lost power.

Speaking at the state chamber’s recent annual meeting in Augusta, Burns said there were 15 towns in Maine where at least 90 percent of the residents lost electricity. She noted that across the state, local businesses stepped up to assist CMP line crews as they worked to restore power.

“More than 250 restaurants fed us. More than 125 hotels put us up,” Burns said. “Without you, we could not have gotten this done.”

Burns has been an active civic leader in Maine as a member of the board of directors for Colby College, her alma mater. She is also a member of the board of directors of The Mitchell Institute and the Augusta Board of Trade, as well as chair of the board of directors of Maine & Co., a business development organization.

Maine & Co. President and CEO Peter DelGreco said Burns has been an “incredible mentor and guiding hand” at his organization, which helps attract businesses to Maine.

DelGreco said Burns was often called upon to speak with out-of-state CEOs, leader to leader, to share personal stories about the quality of Maine’s workers and the benefits of running a company in the state.

“You can see the physical, positive reactions from people who hear her stories,” he said. “Her contributions are almost incalculable. You just couldn’t ask for a better leader.”

 

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