A family dynasty ends today as Bill Corbus retires from the presidency and day-to-day management of Alaska Electric Light and Power, the company his forefathers bought in 1896.
The AEL&P board of directors met this morning to make official a plan they'd agreed to 18 months ago, appointing Timothy McLeod as the new president and general manager.
"It's time for the younger folks to have an opportunity to move ahead at the company; time for new ideas, new energy," said Corbus, who turned 65 this week. "Tim sort of came up through the ranks. He works well with other people and will be a good team leader."
McLeod, 50, is an electrical engineer who came to AEL&P 19 years ago from Mountain Parks Electric in Granby, Colo. For many years he managed AEL&P's transmission and distribution department, making him responsible for the electricity once it left the generator, McLeod said.
A year ago McLeod became the company treasurer, giving him the financial experience he would need to lead the company. His primary goal as he takes over is to fill Corbus' shoes.
"First off, I don't plan to make any changes in the way it's managed, because I've got a very tough act to follow," McLeod said. "Bill Corbus took this company a long way in 20 years."
Corbus moved to Juneau in 1970 to work as assistant manager in his family's company.
"I came up because I thought I would like the lifestyle," said Corbus, who was raised in California but visited Juneau regularly from age 12. He enjoys the fishing, hunting, skiing and other outdoor pursuits Alaska provides.
In 1978 Corbus became AEL&P manager and in 1987 he took over the company presidency from his father, A. William Corbus.
"I feel that Bill's kind of the end of the line," said his brother, Barc Corbus of Arvada, Colo., also a member of the board.
Barc said his son had an opportunity to join AEL&P, and even worked a summer there, but decided to stick with investment banking.
Bill Corbus was the fourth in his family to be president of AEL&P, creating an unbroken family line for more than 70 years. For seven years in the 1990s, Corbus turned over the company presidency to Jeff Webb, but he returned to the position in 1997.
"Over the years there have been family members involved and nonfamily members," said Corbus. "It shouldn't make any difference."
When Corbus arrived in 1970, four utilities powered Juneau. Over the years those were consolidated or bought out. AEL&P is now the sole provider for Juneau and the sixth largest utility in the state.
"Our team, it's not just me, has positioned Juneau's electrical situation so that we can look for relatively reliable power at favorable and stable rates for the foreseeable future," Corbus said.
Others give Corbus credit for dedicated and visionary management of the power company. Corbus regularly came to work by 5:30 a.m. and stayed until everyone else had left at night.
"He has dedicated his life," McLeod said. "He's has some real foresight and planning."
Retirement could be a tough transition for Corbus, said his brother. Corbus plans to travel with his wife, Katie, and spend more time hunting, fishing and skiing. He also plans to remain involved in the company as chairman of the board of directors and owner of 48 percent of the stock in AEL&P's parent company, Alaska Energy Resources. His brother owns 6 percent of the Alaska Energy Resources stock, giving the family the majority holding in the privately owned utility.
Corbus has rented an office in the Marine View Center downtown, and already moved his desk there. He plans to continue to be active in the community, where he has served on many boards, including Hospice and Homecare, Develop Juneau, First National Bank of Alaska, Catholic Community Service and the University of Alaska Southeast Advisory Council. He also continues to be active in anti-capital move campaigns, serving on the FRANK Committee. The Fairbanks-based group, whose name stands for Fiscally Responsible Alaskans Needing Knowledge, was formed in 1977 to ensure that the public would know and vote on the costs of a capital or legislative move before it became effective.
But his most immediate plans include a trip up the Stikine River with friends. And he'll be answering calls from McLeod for a while.
"I will be in communication with him at least on a weekly basis and certainly will be calling on his expertise as I hit the stumbling blocks," McLeod said.