Editor’s note: The following is the extended version of an interview with Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell. A version of this interview appears in the Autumn 2015 issue of Vermont Life.
Mary Powell, 54, is the CEO of Green Mountain Power, a role she never envisioned for herself as a young, outdoorsy New York transplant. Today she’s one of the most influential Vermont voices in energy, leadership and workplace issues.
Mary Powell at Green Mountain Power in Colchester. Photographed by Gary Hall.
VL: You left a corporate gig in Manhattan to move to Vermont. Why Vermont?
MP: My dad’s grandfather purchased a piece of land on the lake in Colchester, I think in 1910. So the family has always come to Vermont, in fact, my family still has that same cottage. Vermont was always my second home, and I usually spent at least half of my summer here. When my parents retired, they retired to Vermont. My sister and her family moved to Vermont, and Mark and I had the opportunity to transition up here — and it was for a lot of the same reasons, I think, that I love Vermont 26 years later; which is, it’s an amazing quality of life. It’s an amazing place to live in.
VL: You’ve worked in business, banking and utilities. What would you tell your younger self who thought these fields were “stuffy”?
MP: I would still say to my younger self, “Don’t work for stuffy, bureaucratic organizations.” Actually one of the lines I like is “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” I think while I ended up in these situations I never thought I’d be in, obviously, I was open enough that at the end of the day I did try (them). So I think staying open and being willing to try different things is really important.
VL: It’s worked out.
MP: It has. It really has. I would also say, adding to that, I would say a huge part of why things have worked for me is that I was always willing to bring my authentic self to wherever I went. That is something I would probably encourage even stronger in my younger self, and I encourage in others, is tap into those wonderful, authentic qualities that you have and figure out how to bring them to the situation and leverage them in a way that’s positive for whatever organization you’re working for. Don’t try to conform. So many times I hear people when they’re going for interviews, they want advice, they’ll research exactly what [the companies are looking] for, and exactly what the