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Personnel file - August 2008: Energy / Environment

Bill Johnson
CEO, Progress Energy Inc.

In October 2007, Bill Johnson went from chief operating officer to interim CEO to CEO of Progress Energy in the course of a week. It happened when Bob McGehee, his predecessor at the Raleigh-based utility, died from a stroke. The 54-year-old Pennsylvania native has a bachelor’s from Duke and a law degree from UNC Chapel Hill. He practiced at Raleigh-based Hunton & Williams before going to work for what’s now Progress in 1992.

Why he switched careers: The firm I was with specialized in utilities, so I had spent a lot of time with utility folks. I was intrigued by the nature of the business. This was a business with a critical mission and a calling. And I really liked the people.

On his rise to CEO: Bob McGehee was a great leader, a great friend of the company and a close friend. You don’t replace Bob McGehee overnight. We did have a succession plan in place that normally would have been triggered with his retirement.

The industry’s biggest challenge: The overriding issue is how we deal with making electricity while reducing our carbon output. People and businesses will continue to move to the Southeast, so we have a challenge to meet that growing demand. At the same time, we’re facing record-high fuel prices. The experience people are having at the gas pump is the same experience we’re having buying fuel for the plants.