Huntsville, Ala., attorney Joe Ritch will become the first Alabama chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority in May when he succeeds Knoxville businessman Bill Sansom as head of TVA's current 8-member board.
Ritch, who was appointed to the TVA board by President Obama in 2012, was unanimously elected as chairman-elect during a quarterly board meeting Thursday in Chattanooga. He will chair the next TVA board meeting in Memphis in May when new board committee assignments will be made to help oversee the nation's biggest government-owned utility.
Sansom is the longest serving TVA director and the only remaining Republican on the part-time board. His second 5-year term expires along with fellow director Barbara Haskew of Chattanooga in May, although the two may serve through the end of the year or until their successors are nominated and confirmed.
"I think we're in one of those transition periods where we are improving financially, nuclear issues are improving and we're becoming much more efficient," Ritch said. "Our organization is starting to become what I think it should be and I'm fortunate to come in at a good time."
Ritch said he will spend the next three months learning more about TVA under Sansom before announcing any board changes.
Ritch, a partner at the Sirote & Permutt law firm in Huntsville, has worked for the past two decades as chairman of the Tennessee Valley Base Realignment and Closures Committee and has served on numerous corporate and nonprofit agency boards in Huntsville, including Axiometrics, the Von Braun Center for Innovative Science and Appleton Learning.
"I think he's a great choice," Sansom said. "He's the first TVA chairman from Alabama, but I've learned as chairman you can't represent just the state you're from. You have to represent the whole Valley."
Sansom is the only remaining original board member from 2006 when Congress revamped the governance of TVA and put in place a part-time board and full-time CEO to run the agency. For most of its 81 years, TVA was governed by a 3-member, full-time board that both ran the agency and set its policy.
Sansom, who served in the administration of Lamar Alexander when Alexander was governor, said he is not seeking to be reappointed again to the TVA board.
Former TVA Director Neil McBride's term ended last year and he has not been replaced so President Obama has the chance to appoint a third of the 9-seat TVA board this year. TVA board appointments must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or 757-6340