CPS No.2 bows out; Mayor Castro's voicemail is full

Bartley shoved into the spotlight Oct. 27 to explain Toshiba's $4 billion open secret.

Greg Harman

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While San Antonio prepares to bow its collective head (to disassemble turkey), some antsy digits weren't fiddling with kitchen implements, we were making calls.

We wanted to know how much of an impediment City Attorney Michael Bernhard is going to be to releasing the full accounting of who screwed up at CPS Energy. (No call back as of 4:45 pm.) How deeply did Mayor Julián Castro want to restructure the chain of command at CPS? (Sorry voicemail is full. Ditto on callback.)

One person we didn't reach out to may be clearing out his desk as I write. Co-CEO (technically GM, but whatever: he's been running the ship for lethargic, ever-outgoing CEO Milton Lee long enough to have earned a share of the title) Steve Bartley is headed for the hills.

Here's CPS Energy's 5:53 pm press release:

Steve Bartley, interim general manager, today announced his intention to leave CPS Energy to pursue other interests.

“Steve has been invaluable in all his various roles for CPS Energy,” said Aurora Geis, chair of the CPS Energy Board of Trustees. “I want to thank Steve for his contributions to CPS Energy and wish him much success in the future.”

Bartley was named interim general manager of CPS Energy in 2009 after serving two years as deputy general manager. He has been with the company since 2000 and has almost 30 years of experience in the electric utility industry.

Bartley also has served the company as director of regulatory relations, vice president of governmental and regulatory relations, and as executive vice president of strategy and external relations.

Before coming to CPS Energy, Bartley held leadership positions with Austin Energy. He began his career with the Lower Colorado River Authority.

The resignation is effective immediately.

Strange. Bartley was to be the agent of change at CPS Energy when he started taking the reins from Lee last year. It's likely that, had the current conflagration over undisclosed billions from Tokyo not swallowed him up, he would have been the next CEO. He was, as Board Chair Aurora Geis described to me earlier, a key part of the succession plan.

In those early months when Geis and Bartley were hypermiling renewables verbiage, Mr. Bartley was open, enthusiastic, and engaged.

Geis, an unabashed Bartley booster, was the force on the board pushing clean-energy technology, demanding even traditional-fuels man and corporate-to-a-fault Lee join the team on an exploration of solar energy models in Europe. An event that Lee credits for turning his mind in favor of solar. Now, the media narrative has Geis as an apologist for the administration.

Then the trench warfare over nuclear came this summer and the face of an older, more protective utility surfaced in Bartley. As the bags under his eyes deepened and the utility talking points that had unfairly handicapped competing power sources became his gospel, Bartley was transformed by the utility's agenda from a “new blood” into an “old boy.”

While he was not of the old guard that kept long and strong secrets at CPS, he inevitably became like them.

Now with Thanksgiving break forcing Team Castro to pause in its efforts to gain deeper levels of control at the utility, Bartley has made his exit. A lot of speculation will follow these next days of closed City offices. For my part, I'll be anxiously awaiting news of the fates of those entrenched CPS players that led Bartley down the nuclear road in the first place.