One of the most familiar faces at Alaska Electric Light and Power is leaving. Director of Consumer Affairs Gayle Wood is retiring after 27 years on the job.
Many customers have spoken to Wood over the years. In fact, she has become one of the people most often thought of when customers refer to the utility. This is because her role as spokeswoman went beyond communicating with the media. It meant being up front for almost all utility actions and customer interaction.
She was the person people tend to go to first for information and issues.
“The public relations piece of it is a small part of job. I also oversee the consumer affairs group, so all of customer service affairs parts have been under me,” she said.
This means that for so many years, Wood has overseen billing and collections, office functions, tariff revisions and public relations functions. This means everything from cold weather outage advisories to home shows to school safety demonstrations.
As Wood is on the front lines with billing too, she’s often the face in front or the voice on the phone for the customers.
“I guess I would look at it as super enjoyable and sometimes a challenging experience over the last 27 years,” Wood said. “I always appreciated how our company is always thinking about our customers first.”
Wood says working directly with customers has been her favorite part of the job and will be what she misses most.
AEL&P President and General Manager Tim McLeod said she’s also involved with much more than that, but it often takes place behind the scenes. He said she takes all of the minutes for the board meetings and has some role or provides input for most decision-making processes.
“We’ve relied on Gayle’s help quite heavily,” he said.
McLeod said it’s also pretty significant for someone to be here that long.
Wood fully immersed herself in Juneau outside of work as well, doing so through committees and volunteering. Some examples include the United Way, Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club and chairing the Juneau Commission on Sustainability.
“Not only was she a model employee here but a model for the community,” said McLeod. “She’s been making contributions to the community the entire time she’s been here. A lot of people are going to miss that part.”
Wood began her AEL&P career as an office manager and was even the first woman added to the utility’s management team at that point.
While most of her tenure was under that job title, the job description evolved over the years. She became more involved with the media around 1991 and officially took over as consumer affairs director in 2007.
“That’s one of the good things about working for this company. Opportunities are everywhere. You get to see everything a small utility can do and be involved,” said Wood.
Wood was also involved in developing AEL&P’s website and getting it into the electronic payment era. She was recently instrumental in working on the electric vehicle rate. Among other projects, she also developed signage and drop boxes in the grocery stores.
“To me, the bigger deal was that the vast majority of our customers like working with our staff and call in and get a real person,” she said.
Wood is retiring to her hometown of Salem, Ore. where she still has family. She plans to continue her community work, saying this is very important to her. She said she’ll definitely be looking for a new Rotary Club there. In addition to this, retirement will allow her to take on a personal project of restoring a 1915 bungalow. She jokingly says her new job title is “apprentice carpenter.”
“The entire staff and I are going to miss having her around and wish her luck,” McLeod said.
Wood’s replacement as director of consumer affairs will be Debbie Ferreira. Like Wood, she also started her AEL&P tenure as an office manager. She’s been with the company about 2 years.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.