The city has named Seth A. Shapiro, chief operating officer of Blue Bell development company the Goldenberg Group, to take over the helm of the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works at the end of next year.
Shapiro, who has served on PGW’s board of directors for more than 15 years, including the last five as chairman, will move over to the executive suite on Jan. 4 and become the utility’s chief operating officer. He is set to assume the chief executive officer’s post at the end of 2021 when the current CEO, Craig E. White, is scheduled to retire.
The Philadelphia Gas Commission, which is chaired by Philadelphia City Councilman Derek S. Green, must approve the appointment.
Shapiro was appointed to the post by the Philadelphia Facilities Management Corporation (PFMC), the nonprofit that oversees the utility and whose unpaid board members are appointed by the mayor.
“Seth brings a varied and diverse background of leadership experience to his new role in PGW management,” Mike Dunn, a city spokesperson, said in an email. “His experience in real estate development and the city’s business community, coupled with his experience on the PFMC make him uniquely qualified for this position as we look to move PGW into the future.”
White, who will turn 65 next year, was paid about $440,000 last year, which is high compared to city employees, but Dunn said that PGW executives are employees of PFMC not the city, and the salary “is well below comparable energy sector CEOs.” Shapiro will receive similar compensation, Dunn said.
Shapiro, who will turn 49 next week, said PGW’s current management team is excellent and has an abundance of technical industry knowledge.
“However the challenges faced by the utility and the city require a more entrepreneurial approach,” he said in an email Monday. “I hope to continue to manage the company in the professional and successful manner that it has been run during my tenure on the board, but I also hope to bring a focus on creatively growing our customer base in more efficient and sustainable ways.”
Shapiro will take over the position now held by Douglas A. Moser, acting chief operating officer, a career gas utility executive whom Dunn said will retire.
PFMC also announced Monday that it has elected Leigh Whitaker, the director of city relations at the University of Pennsylvania, as its new chair. She previously served as vice president of communications for SugarHouse Casino, as deputy chief of staff for the School District of Philadelphia, and as chief legislative aide for Philadelphia City Council Councilman Darrell L. Clarke.
White became chief executive in 2011, and he is typical of executives who spent their lives working in public utilities. He is a second-generation career PGW employee who moved up on the white-collar side of the business for 30 years before becoming CEO.
Shapiro would be a departure from the past in that his utility experience is limited to the board level, rather than operations.
Shapiro, who lives in Chestnut Hill, has served in leadership positions with publicly and privately held development companies, including the Goldenberg Group, Toll Brothers, Inc. and Westrum Development Corporation.
He is currently chairman of the board of the Chestnut Hill Business District, and has served in leadership positions on several community-based nonprofits, including Mt. Airy USA and Operation Understanding. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in government.