Panel: Out With The Old & In With The New

PANELISTS: John Cullinane, Chief Security Officer, WGL Holdings; Denise Kruger, SVP, Golden State Water Company; and Jim Downing, CIO, NW Natural

MODERATOR: Maria DeChellis, Director of Marketing & Industry Strategy, Red Clay

SUMMARY: Transitioning from legacy systems to new technology is no easy feat and requires a tremendous amount of forethought and planning before being able to determine the right path to modernization.

In this panel discussion, we pick the brains of Senior Executives from small utilities and large investor-owned utilities to find out what types of considerations these executives are taking into account when planning transitions from legacy systems to modern technologies such as cloud.


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Panel Preview: Jim Downing, NW Natural

Panel Preview: John Cullinane, WGL Holdings

Panel Preview: Denise Kruger, Golden State Water Company


As a nearly 20-year industry veteran, Maria DeChellis has focused her efforts in working with utilities to improve the customer experience through technology. With over 50 engagements across the US and Canada, DeChellis has specialized in looking holistically at utilities to improve community awareness, develop meaningful customer interaction, and creating business cases and budgets that help propel utilities to their future vision.

DeChellis is PMP-Certified former utility executive and IT strategic consultant with project management and stakeholder experience in AMR/AMI, Customer Information System, and ERP implementations. She is a frequently published writer and speaker on customer service experience, IT strategic planning, software design, and organizational change management for CS Week, American Water Works Association, and Western Energy Institute. DeChellis is currently the secretary of the Customer Service Subcommittee of the American Water Works Association and volunteers at community organizations discussing water affordability. She is the Director of Marketing and Industry Strategy at Red Clay.

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John Cullinane is Chief Security Officer for WGL Holdings, a publicly traded energy company based in Washington D.C. John has over 25 years of experience in the utility business and has held a variety of leadership and senior technical positions during his tenure, including assignments as a senior architect and Division Head of Information Technology Services.

Early in his career, John spent 10 years in the Consumer Services department as a technical architect implementing and managing the company’s wireless mobile data network and automated meter reading system. During this time, he served as a member of Motorola’s Mobile Data Users Group executive committee and was a frequent presenter at national forums focused on designing and implementing wireless- based networks.

John is a current member of the American Gas Association (AGA) Cyber Security Task Force, Verizon’s Customer Advisory Board and a recent graduate of the Leadership Maryland Executive Program.

Denise L. Kruger is Senior Vice President, Regulated Utilities for Golden State Water Company. In this role, Ms. Kruger has oversight of all functions in Regulated Utilities, including Water Operations, Asset Management, Environmental Quality, Customer and Community Relations, Customer Service, Water Use Efficiency, Water Resources and Regulated New Business. Golden State Water Company provides water service to 254,000 customers and electric service to 23,000 customers in California.

Ms. Kruger has over 25 years of experience in the utility industry. She joined Golden State Water Company in 1992 as Manager of Quality Assurance and Water Quality. In 1998, Ms. Kruger was appointed to the position of Vice President, Water Quality. She then served in various executive roles in water operations before being appointed Senior Vice President, Regulated Utilities.

Ms. Kruger is active in the utility industry, including holding a Board seat on CFEE, the California Foundation for the Environment and Economy. She is a past Chair of the Water Research Foundation, an organization responsible for over $460M worth of water related research, and past Chair of the American Ground Water Trust. Ms. Kruger received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California-Davis and a Master of Business Administration Degree from the University of California-Irvine.

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As Chief Information Officer of NW Natural, Jim Downing is responsible for overseeing the company’s Information Technology Department. NW Natural is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and provides natural gas service to about 730,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in Oregon and Southwest Washington. It is the largest independent natural gas utility in the Pacific Northwest.

Downing has been working in Information Technology for over 15 years. Before joining NW Natural in 2017, he was CIO at WorleyParsons-Americas Division, an Australia-based engineering firm providing consulting services internationally to the resources and energy sectors. He previously worked at British Petroleum (BP) for 10 years, holding executive positions there from 2008 to 2015. His experience also includes past roles at Schlumberger, Microsoft, and Siemens.

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