From the pumps and valves inside a nuclear plant to high-voltage lines that string energy across the grid, Kent Fonvielle has worked around virtually every aspect of the electric utility business.
In April, he joined MISO South as executive director of External Affairs.
“I began my career with a civil engineering degree working at Oconee Nuclear Station,” Kent explains. “I always laugh because when I applied for that job, the first thing I thought was ‘why is a nuclear plant hiring a civil engineer?’”
The new engineer soon learned why – using his skills to help build and maintain facility structures and systems that were critical for reliable operations. It was a role that gave Kent a life-long appreciation for the value of electricity.
“Learning and seeing what it takes to keep the megawatts flowing was a fantastic opportunity,” he says.
A few years later, Kent realized he most enjoyed working with people.
“I had been thinking about my career from the long-term perspective – and I realized I wanted to understand the broader utility business and have a chance to interact with our customers – to be able to build relationships that made a difference,” he recalls.
He got that chance working on the customer- and later the regulatory-side of the power industry. Kent rose through the ranks at Progress Energy, now part of Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy Corp.
“I learned a lot about what customers are looking for,” Kent says of his days managing large industrial accounts. “You quickly learn the things you are doing well – and the things you aren’t doing so well. When things aren’t going well, you hear it loud and clear, but that is where you can make a difference.”
Kent describes those sometimes-candid interactions as opportunities.
“It was the chance to sit down with a customer or stakeholder and talk through issues and work together toward solutions,” he says. “It’s often not just the ‘what’ but the ‘how’ that is important in achieving success. How we treat people – how we conduct business – is key.”
As Kent pondered the next chapter in his career, MISO seemed like a natural fit for Kent’s extensive energy background.
“The mission of service – that not-for-profit and member-driven approach spoke to me,” Kent says. “Our business is supporting member success. That’s something MISO is behind 100 percent.”
That mission – and enthusiastic support from his high-school sweetheart and life-long partner – sealed the deal for the move.
“My wife Julie and I came to Little Rock and met this team of great people – and that clinched it,” Kent says. “We looked at each other and said this feels like the place we should be.”
Now settling in, Kent looks forward to meeting the members and stakeholders across the MISO South footprint.
“I want to learn all I can about how we can continue to strengthen our relationships and add greater value to those we serve.”
Kent and Julie have three children: Morgan, 25; Alec, 22; and Savannah, 19. Kent says he is looking forward to visits from his children so they can enjoy the outdoors together in the Natural State.