Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders: Opportunity (Jun 26-28)

An intensive training for high potential managers and supervisors through exposure to broad perspectives of the utility business, its interrelationships and successful leadership strategies. This program is designed by a utility-driven Curriculum Development Team, and directed by facilitators, and executive and alumni mentors. Program sessions are hosted by member utilities and topics are presented by executives, subject matter experts and formal instructors. The first four sessions focus on leadership development, industry perspectives, customer connections, communications and strategic planning. The program includes a capstone project which is delivered to industry leaders at the WEI Annual Meeting. Participants build a broad peer network that continues well into their future careers.

General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Pam Giles, Questar Gas Company

    • Program Location
    • Avista Corp.
    • 1411 E. Mission Ave.
      Spokane, WA 99252
    • Who Should Attend
    • Participants are nominated by WEI members and selected through a formal application review process. Applicants make a commitment to attend and actively participate at each session, and should plan time for additional work between sessions. It is expected that students commit to completing “homework” assignments during evenings and off-hours with additional assignments required outside of the normal work day. Each group is assigned one executive and one alumni mentor who will support the group’s development throughout the program and guide them to a successful final project.

  • Upcoming Dates + Locations
  • Session 3: June 26-28, Avista, Spokane, WA
    Session 4: August 8-10, ATCO Gas, Edmonton, AB
    Session 5: September 20-22, Annual Meeting, Tucson, AZ

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations, cancellations received 15 business days prior to the program will receive a full refund. Cancellations received 6 to 14 business days prior to the event will receive a refund, less a $100 administrative fee. No shows and last minute cancellations, 5 business days prior to the event or less, will be responsible for the full registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the same event are always welcome.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public.
  • For more information contact Anna Sanger Reed, Director of Customer + Corporate Programs at (503) 688-2795.


Monday, June 26, 2017

8:00 AM - 1:30 PM

Group Work Time

Space will be available for group work.

2:00 PM - 2:15 PM

Check In + Meet Up

Gather in Historic Davenport Hotel lobby to walk to tour location.

2:15 PM - 2:30 PM

Walk to Tour Location

Depart on foot to 159 S Lincoln Ste 202, Spokane, Washington.

2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Power Generation Tour

4:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Walk back to Historic Davenport

Dinner on your own

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Commute to Avista

8:00 AM - 8:30 AM

Breakfast at Avista

8:30 AM - 9:00 AM

Welcome to Avista
Speaker(s): Dennis Vermillion, President, Avista Utilities and Senior Vice President, Avista Corp.

Hear an overview of Avista's history and structure.

9:00 AM - 9:45 AM

The Customer
Speaker(s): Kevin Christie, Vice President, Avista Corp.

9:45 AM - 10:15 AM

Networking Break

10:15 AM - 11:30 AM

"What Would You Do?" Interactive Session
Speaker(s): Mike Broemeling, Director, Customer & Shared Services, Avista Utilities

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Lunch at Avista

12:30 PM - 1:00 PM

Communication Strategy Discussion
Facilitator(s): Pam Giles, Operations Center Manager, Questar Gas

Students will discuss what they learned from the Communication Strategy homework assignment.

1:00 PM - 1:15 PM


1:15 PM - 2:30 PM

Crisis Communication Case Study
Speaker(s): Dana Anderson, Director, Corporate Communications and Marketing, Avista Utilities

2:30 PM - 2:45 PM


2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Design Thinking
Speaker(s): Dan Johnson, Director of Energy Efficiency, Avista Utilities

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Discussion and Debrief
Facilitator(s): Pam Giles, Operations Center Manager, Questar Gas

We'll debrief from speaker topics and complete more elevator speeches.

4:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Commute Back to Hotel

5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Reception with Avista Executives and Alumni

Join us for a reception with our host utility executives at the Historic Davenport.

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Dinner on your own

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

7:00 AM - 7:30 AM

Commute to Avista

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Breakfast at Avista

8:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Joan Tremblay

Speak like a Pro Workshop

12:00 PM - 12:45 PM

Lunch at Avista

12:45 PM - 1:30 PM

Debrief Discussion and Adjourn

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Optional Worktime for Capstone Projects

Hotel + Travel

  • Reservation Instructions
  • Please contact the hotel directly at (800) 228-9290 to reserve your room. Identify yourself as being with Western Energy Institute to receive a special rate of $169/night. This rate is guaranteed until June 1, 2017 or until the WEI room block is full.

Meet The Speakers

Dennis Vermillion

Avista Corp.

President, Avista Utilities and Senior Vice President
Learn More

Dennis Vermillion serves as the president of Avista Corp. He also holds the position of chairman of the board of directors for Avista Corp. subsidiary Alaska Electric Light and Power Company.

Dennis joined Avista in 1985 and has held various staff and management positions. His experience covers a broad range of activities, including leadership, energy trading and marketing, risk management, scheduling, resource operations, power/transmission contracting, resource planning and coordination, regulatory issues and production cost modeling. Previously, Dennis served as senior vice president of Avista Corp. and president of Avista Utilities, vice president of energy resources and prior to that, as president and chief operating officer for Avista Energy from February 2001, until its sale in June 2007.

He is a graduate of Washington State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He currently serves as a board member for Western Energy Institute (WEI) and American Gas Association (AGA) and the Avista Foundation. Dennis formerly served on the board of Spokane County United Way and is a past chairman of the Spokane County campaign

He is a 1985 graduate of Washington State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He is a past Board member for the Spokane County United Way and the Avista Foundation.

Kevin Christie

Avista Corp.

Vice President
Learn More

Kevin Christie is vice president, external affairs and chief customer officer for Avista. In that role, he has responsibility for communications, community outreach and philanthropy, as well as customer energy efficiency and conservation activities, and new products and services.

Christie joined Avista in 2005 as the manager of Natural Gas Planning. In 2007, he was named the director of Gas Supply. He was appointed the senior director of Finance in 2012 and named senior director of Customer Solutions in 2014. Christie has extensive experience in finance and the energy industry. Prior to joining Avista, he worked for Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN), where he served as the director of Pipeline Marketing and Development, and as the director of Pricing and Business Analysis.

In addition, Christie has held positions in finance, business analysis, regulatory affairs and revenue accounting for PG&E Corporation, Pacific Gas Transmission Company and Chevron USA.

Christie has a Bachelor of Arts degree with an accounting emphasis from Washington State University. In addition, he completed the Utility Executive Course at the University of Idaho and the Finance for Senior Executives program at Harvard Business School.

Christie serves on the board of directors for the Northwest Gas Association, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the Providence Health Care Foundation of Eastern Washington and the Avista Foundation.

Mike Broemeling

Avista Utilities

Director, Customer & Shared Services

Dana Anderson

Avista Utilities

Director, Corporate Communications and Marketing

Daniel Johnson

Avista Utilities

Director of Energy Efficiency

Joan Tremblay

Tremblay & McLoughlin


Pam Giles

Questar Gas

Operations Center Manager