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Contributed photo by TVA / Don Moul

This story was updated at 1:11 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, with more information.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has hired a 35-year industry veteran who has worked in a variety of roles for investor-owned utilities to serve as TVA's next chief operating officer.

Don Moul, a 56-year-old nuclear engineer who headed the nuclear power program at NextEra Energy after previously serving in top management roles for First Energy Corp., will join TVA later this month. He succeeds Mike Skaggs, who is stepping down from TVA's No. 2 job.

Skaggs plans to retire from TVA next January, but he will remain as an executive vice president and advisor to TVA Chief Executive Jeff Lyash for the next seven months.

Despite repeated criticisms last year by former President Donald Trump about TVA's executive pay, the government utility will pay Moul a $1.2 million relocation bonus and an initial annual salary of $765,000, plus the opportunity to receive another $535,000 in performance payments and another $1.6 million in long-term compensation payments, according to a regulatory filing TVA made Wednesday to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

TVA also announced that John Thomas has been named executive vice president, chief financial and strategy officer. Thomas, who previously served as TVA's chief financial officer since February 2012, will receive an increase in his base annual salary from $686,582 to $765,000. TVA also said Thomas was awarded a prorated performance grant of nearly $1.04 million under TVA's long-term incentive plan, subject to the attainment of performance goals, and was also awarded a prorated retention grant of $441,000 to be paid over the next two years.

TVA's top managers are the highest-paid federal employees in America, but TVA no longer receives any direct taxpayer payments. The government-owned utility says its compensation plans are designed to be competitive with investor-owned utilities with which it competes for talent.

A year ago, former President Donald Trump, whose $400,000 salary as president was only a fraction of the compensation provided to TVA's top managers, suggested that TVA cut its executive pay "by a lot." Trump called Lyash's pay "ridiculous," and fired two TVA directors from the board who supported the higher pay levels.

In response, the TVA board hired an outside executive compensation consulting firm, FW Cook, to review TVA's executive pay. In February, less than a month after Trump left the White House, the TVA board affirmed its management pay scale and granted a pay raise to Lyash.

The TVA act, as amended under the board restructuring Congress adopted in 2004, requires TVA to pay competitive compensation with other electric utilities for all of its workers, including its CEO. Lyash is paid less than most of his peers at investor-owned utilities, according to pay comparisons performed for TVA.

Lyash, who joined TVA two years ago, was previously the highest-paid government employee in Ontario, Canada where he headed Ontario Power.

Moul was recruited to TVA to lead the utility's safety, transmission and power supply, coal, gas and hydro generation, the integrated river system management, environmental, supply chain and major projects.

"Don brings nearly 35 years of experience across all facets of power generation and operations with a proven track record of improving operational performance and teamwork," Lyash said in an announcement of the new hire. "His background, skill sets and leadership approach will be a great addition to our team."

Most recently, Moul has served as executive vice president at NextEra Energy. From 2004 to 2019, he served in a variety of leadership roles at FirstEnergy Corporation, including leading the nuclear and fossil generation, transmission and distribution, commodity operations and environmental compliance functions. He also previously served as president of Ohio Edison and Penn Power – two of FirstEnergy's operating companies.

Moul holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nuclear engineering from Penn State and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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