In his role as Vice President of the Delmarva Power Region of Pepco Holdings Inc., John Allen is responsible for building and maintaining community, business and government relationships in Central and Southern Delaware and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.
Allen is a 34‐year veteran of the utility industry and previously served as the manager of the utility’s Customer Care Call Center in Carneys Point, N.J., and Training and Performance Improvement for the company.
A spiritual man, Allen holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theology. Known among his peers as an exceptional leader, Allen has had career success in leading customer care initiatives, developing organizational training and setting targets for strategic leadership. Allen is also a 2006 graduate of Leadership Maryland.
Allen evokes to a time past when utility and banking executives filled the local nonprofit and community boards. He is a member of the University System of Maryland Foundation Board of Directors, University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s Board of Visitors and UMES’ Business Executive Advisory Council. He is also on the Board of Directors of Salisbury Wicomico Economic Development, the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lower Eastern Shore, Board of Directors for the Maryland/District of Columbia Utilities Association, The Board of Directors of Nanticoke Health Services, The Delaware State University Board of Trustees, The Community Foundation and The Greater Salisbury Committee.
Q. Do you get the feeling that your customers comprehend the enormous complexity that is involved in providing power in a market like the Lower Shore?
A. Providing electricity to our customers is a round-the-clock endeavor. We do our best to provide electric service to our customers in a safe and reliable manner.
We have Speakers Bureau employees who make presentations throughout the year about various company topics to various civic, business and government organizations. Hopefully, our customers find these presentations helpful in learning more about our company’s role in providing energy to them.
Q. Why are the rate structures so complicated? Should it be necessary for you to essentially offer people tutorials on how to read their electric bills?
A. As a regulated utility, we follow policies and procedures set forth by the public service commissions in Delaware and Maryland. There are a lot of components that go into setting a rate structure.
We are always willing to answer our customers’ questions regarding their electric rates.
Q. Delmarva Power, through Pepco Holdings, is essentially out of the power production business. You are a lines and service company. How has that changed roles within the company?
A. Even though we don’t generate power anymore, we still are involved in delivering energy to our customers on a 24/7 basis. For that reason, we still are kept busy ensuring that the lights stay on, and that if there is an outage, we restore power as quickly and as safely as possible.
Q. If I’m sitting in the food court of the Centre at Salisbury mall, where is the electricity I’m using coming from?
A. The electric infrastructure connected to the mall is providing energy that comes from PJM, which is a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of electricity in all or parts of 13 states and Washington, D.C.
Q. What help can Delmarva Power offer me to help save energy and reduce my power bill?
A. Delmarva Power has several resources to help our customers save energy and money. They can use our web site to access our on-line tool “My Account” (www.delmarva.com), which provides access to their individual usage history as well as all types of information related to their homes and businesses.
Our web site also provides customers the ability to manage their account online, pay their bill, report an outage as well as obtaining information on state programs to save energy and money. We even have a mobile app that we encourage customers to download on their smart phones and tablets.
Q. Do many people take advantage of these programs?
A. We utilize all forms of conventional and social media to try to keep customers informed about the energy-saving programs available to them. Many of our customers have taken advantage of the various programs and the feedback we have gotten from them has been positive.
Q. We hear a lot of talk about wind energy, and windmills being placed offshore. Will that ever truly be part of our energy solution?
A. Offshore wind is definitely part of our energy generation solution. Two leases for about 80,000 acres off of Ocean City will be auctioned to developers soon. Not only will it provide a clean energy generation source but it will provide a positive economic impact to our area.
We continue to support renewable energy generation and look forward to offshore wind becoming a reality.
Q. There have been a two multi-hour blackouts in our region within the last decade. Both were blamed on problems within the electric grid that serves us. How reliable is our power?
A. Even the most robust electric system is sometimes subject to the effects of Mother Nature. However, we work on daily basis to make sure our system is reliable so that it can withstand severe weather as much as possible.
Q. What is being done to make it more reliable?
A. Over the last five years, Delmarva Power has invested approximately $1 billion to strengthen its transmission and distribution systems to improve reliability and the company plans to equal that system investment pace over the next five years.
Q. In your role, you deal with hundreds of local governments in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, as well as the state governments. What are those relationships like? Do governmental officials “get it” when it comes to supporting your aims to provide energy?
A. We have very strong relationships at the state and local levels and we are committed to enhancing those relationships through outreach to these stakeholders.
I do believe that our officials “get it” as it relates to providing safe, reliable and affordable energy but they also are sure to make the needs of their constituents a priority.
Q. We’ve had more than our share of blizzards, hurricanes and big storms in recent years. How hard has that been on your employees and overall organization?
A. Stormy weather definitely poses challenges for our workers. They work long hours when it comes to restoring power in the wake of a storm, but I am proud to say that we have very dedicated employees who do not flinch when it comes to going the extra mile to restore electric service to our customers.
Q. I know trees interfering with powerlines was a culprit for some storm-related outages. Now utilities everywhere are moving aggressively to trim and cut trees. There seems to be some public backlash on this. Are utilities “overdoing it”?
A. To deliver safe and reliable electric service, we must keep trees a safe distance from power lines because many power outages are caused when tree branches fall onto power lines.
Our tree management program includes routine trimming, storm hardening, maintenance and rights-of-way work. The work our licensed, professional foresters and contract tree experts do is for public safety and the safety and health of the trees.
Q. You serve on more boards and committees than probably any other local executive. Your access and influence gives you a front seat to the challenges ongoing in nearly all of our communities.
A. Every community has its challenges.
It’s important to be involved in the communities in which we live, work and play. Our employees believe in the power to do good and make a difference. By participating in community organizations we are able to identify areas where we can be of assistance.
We all have knowledge, skills and talents that we can use to be a blessing to someone else. To whom much is given, much is required.
Q. What are our greatest community needs?
A. Our needs as a community are vast and I applaud every legislator, nonprofit organization, business organization, colleges and universities, volunteers and concerned citizen for their efforts to address homelessness, poverty, job creation, skills development and economic development.
We can look all around us and find a need. The question is, “Am I doing anything besides complaining about it?”
Q. Where do you find the time to engage in so much community service?
A. I have a very understanding wife who understands volunteerism and giving back to the community.
She has been involved in giving back to the community dating back to the Civil Rights Movement as a child and has worked side by side with family members and neighbors in the community.
I also have a very understanding boss (Regional President Gary Stockbridge) who allows me to balance work and community needs on a daily basis.
Q. You’re the chairman of the Greater Salisbury Committee. There’s a sense in the community that Salisbury is on the comeback trail.
A. There is a higher level of excitement that people are feeling about Salisbury and it’s potential.
Many organizations, including the Greater Salisbury Committee, are developing and revising strategic plans that will make them more relevant in the community.
As we discuss the “comeback” of Salisbury, the discussion must extend beyond downtown. Downtown development/re-development, is important but let’s not stop there.
Salisbury is a community and all of us have to be engaged in its growth and development.
Q. Through that committee, you’ve identified our local “brain drain” as an issue requiring attention. What can be done to keep our native young people here and entice the graduates at Salisbury University, Wor-Wic and UMES to keep their talents here?
A. As a business community, we must continue to meet regularly with our local, county and state leadership to identify opportunities to give these students here after they graduate.
Jobs creation in the areas that our graduates are specializing in is the beginning. We also have to create a vibrant cultural experience for them as well.
Q. People around town are still talking about your commencement speech this spring at Wor-Wic Community College. Where did you get the idea to incorporate the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” into your speech?
A. Very simply; I prayed about it and that was the answer to that prayer.
Q. It was a great speech, it was greatly received. It must have taken confidence to know you could pull that off.
A. I was honored to be selected by President Ray Hoy and the Board of Directors. My concern was not to be boring.
It’s an exciting time for graduates and their families and the last thing you want to do is have everyone taking selfies and not listening to you. I knew that my message needed to be relevant to everyone in attendance and the ultimate goal was to let the graduates know that there are those who understand what they have experienced and who have been where they are going.
Q. What would you say to other local executives who would like to be more community-involved, but are a bit hesitant?
A. There’s no need to be hesitant. We cannot sit on the sidelines and then have an issue about how things are or are not progressing.
It’s time to lead, time to roll up our sleeves and get in the game. It’s time to be part of the solution.
We have a cultural belief in our company that “Collaboration Wins.” I can’t have all the answers but working with others leads to better results. You’re not on your own. We’re here to support you in making a difference.
Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at email@example.com