Spokane Journal of Business

Avista CEO Scott Morris to retire

Vermillion named successor

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Scott Morris, CEO and chairman of the board of Avista Corp., will retire from the Spokane-based energy company effective March 1, 2020, the company announced this afternoon.

Morris will continue to serve as the executive chairman of the board of directors until his retirement date but will transition his duties as CEO to Dennis P. Vermillion effective Oct. 1, 2019.

Morris will serve as the non-executive chairman of the board following his retirement. Vermillion also will continue to serve on Avista’s board of directors.

Morris joined Avista in 1981 and began his career in the utility marketing division. From there, and over the course of his career, he served in leadership roles across the company and across Avista’s service area, which included stints in Spokane; Lewiston, Idaho; Medford, Oregon; and back in Spokane.

He served as general manager for Avista’s Oregon and California utility business from 1991 through 2000, when he was named president of Avista Utilities. Morris was named senior vice president of Avista Corp. in 2002, president and COO in 2006 and has served as CEO and chairman since 2008.

The company credits Morris with the turnaround and growth of subsidiary company Ecova to over $200 million in annual revenue. Avista sold Ecova--now part of Engie--to Cofely USA Inc. in 2014 for $335 million, with Ecova's Spokane-based jobs remaining here.

Morris also led the acquisition of Alaska Electric Light & Power Co., in 2014, which expanded the company’s operations into Alaska.

Under Morris’ direction, Avista helped shape Spokane’s University District, including the smart city collaboration Urbanova, the development of the South Landing and Catalyst project, and the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County, the company says.

In July 2017, under Morris' leadership, Avista agreed to be acquired by Toronto-based Hydro One Ltd. in a $5.3 billion transaction. After 18 months of working to garner regulatory approval, however, the companies terminated the agreement, and Avista remained independent.

"I’ve been honored to lead this company and serve alongside exceptional and dedicated employees for nearly 40 years," Morris says. "I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished together and look forward to continuing my service on the Avista board and watching as this company continues to achieve great outcomes for those it serves."

He says the company has been diligent and deliberate in its succession planning process. In regard to Vermillion, Morris says, "I have every confidence in his ability to successfully lead Avista into the future. His deep leadership experience and extensive expertise in all aspects of the company positions him well to build on his current leadership role and shape the next evolution of the company."

Vermillion joined Avista in 1985 and has held a number of staff and management positions. His experience covers a broad range of activities, including leadership, energy trading and marketing, risk management, scheduling, resource operations, power-transmission contracting, resource planning and coordination, regulatory issues and production cost modeling.

Previously, Vermillion served as senior vice president of Avista Corp. and president of Avista Utilities.

Vermillion is a Spokane native and a Washington State University graduate. He currently serves as a board member for Western Energy Institute, American Gas Association, and the Avista Foundation.

Avista Utilities is the company's operating division that provides electric service to 395,000 customers and natural gas to 362,000 customers, in a 30,000-square-mile service area in Eastern Washington, northern Idaho, parts of southern and eastern Oregon. Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. provides retail electric services in the Juneau, Alaska, area.




Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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