Energy Secretary Taps Hairston As Interim CEO For Bonneville Power Administration

John Hairston, who has spent the past five years in the Bonneville Power Administration front office, most recently as the chief operating officer since September 2019, has been named interim administrator and Chief Executive Officer by Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

He takes over for Elliot Mainzer, who left the agency last month.


Hairston has served in numerous leadership roles throughout his 29 years at BPA, including as the agency’s first chief administrative officer from June 2015 to September 2019. He was selected as COO last fall.

“John has made a lasting and significant impact on the Bonneville Power Administration over the past 29 years, and I am proud to announce him as the interim Administrator,” said Brouillette. “BPA is an important provider of reliable, renewable hydroelectric and clean nuclear power to the Pacific Northwest, and John’s commitment to serve BPA will support the Administration’s critical energy mission.”

Hairston brings a unique perspective to the job having served in multiple capacities in BPA’s Power Services, regulatory and compliance positions and most recently his two front office executive posts, BPA said in a press release.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead BPA as we continue to deliver on our strategic goals and manage the challenges of the evolving energy landscape,” said Hairston. “Through this transition we will continue to seek the right balance of the Northwest’s diverse set of needs and interests that are associated with our operations and the role we play in the region.”

Tom McDonald, BPA executive vice president of Compliance, Audit, Risk Management and EEO will serve as acting COO during Hairston’s stint as interim administrator and CEO. McDonald has served in his current capacity since October 2017. 

McDonald has more than 20 years of experience leading and managing complex and highly-regulated compliance and governance programs.

With McDonald serving as the acting COO, Chief Compliance Officer Christopher Frost will move into the role of acting executive vice president of Compliance, Audit, Risk Management and EEO. Frost joined BPA in 2007 as a supply systems analyst in the Procurement and Property Policy office. He became the agency records officer in 2010 in the Governance and Internal Controls organization, then Information Governance supervisor in 2015. Frost has served as Chief Compliance Officer since 2018.

Hairston and McDonald will work alongside BPA Deputy Administrator Dan James and Chief Administrative Officer Robin Furrer, “rounding out a BPA senior executive team that is ready to ensure leadership continuity and the continued provision of world class and reliable products and services to our customers,” said the release.

Hairston was named acting administrator and CEO in September 2020. In this role, he was responsible for managing the nonprofit federal agency that markets carbon-free power from Columbia River hydroelectric dams and the region’s one nuclear plant. BPA also operates most of the high-voltage power grid across the Pacific Northwest, distributing renewable energy to the region and beyond.

Hairston has served as chief operating officer since October 2019, where he has overseen Power Services; Transmission Services; Environment, Fish and Wildlife; Customer Support Services; and the Business Transformation Office.

Hairston also served as BPA’s chief administrative officer, beginning in June 2015. In this role he provided policy and strategic guidance concerning BPA’s internal operations and oversaw Safety; Human Capital Management; Security and Continuity of Operations; Supply Chain; Workplace Services and Information Technology.

Hairston joined BPA in 1991. He began his career as an economist in the Rates Forecasting and Rate Design organizations and then performed various positions in Energy Efficiency, including the program manager for Peak Load Management. In 2002, Hairston was assigned to implement and manage the BPA Power Services product, Slice. The Slice product accounts for a sizeable portion of BPA’s annual sales with a portfolio of its largest public customers.

In 2006, Hairston was named BPA’s chief compliance officer, leading the development and implementation of the Agency Compliance and Governance Organization, providing overall coordination and management of systems and processes established to assure agency compliance with regulatory rules and standards. 

Hairston holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from The Southern University, a master’s degree in Urban Studies from Portland State University and a Juris Doctorate from the Lewis & Clark Northwestern School of Law. He also holds the certification of Compliance and Ethics Professional from the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics.

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