New COO Draws On Experience Working at Glennallen Utility
Travis Million has only been Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA)’s Chief Operating Officer for a few months; however, he has more than a decade of experience working at a nearby Alaskan utility. After 12 years working at Copper Valley Electric Association in Glennallen, Travis decided he wanted to be a part of GVEA as the co-op implements its strategic generation plan.
Travis previously served as the CVEA COO from 2011 to 2020 and then as its CEO until recently. As GVEA’s COO, Travis oversees the power supply, operations and engineering departments, similar to his previous position, but on a larger scale. He says some things are different. For instance, CVEA’s generation mix includes more hydroelectric power than GVEA receives from the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric project, which often means GVEA must rely on other resources.
“Overall, the challenges that come with maintaining lines, reconnecting members during a storm and developing a reliable energy portfolio are the same,” Travis says.
As CEO of CVEA, Travis says he worked hard to create an inclusive culture that embodies a cooperative spirit. During that time, he managed a fantastic team he found hard to leave when he took his position at GVEA. He also considers the development of a regionally recognized safety program at CVEA as a significant accomplishment.
“Building the right team with the right people and training them for growth was definitely a highlight of my time there,” Travis says.
Travis says reducing the cost of energy is the biggest challenge to the utility industry. The best energy portfolios have a highly reliable mix that produces a stabilized long-term energy cost far into the future. Travis is a fan of renewable energy resources, but still feels caution is necessary, given examples in California and Germany, which invested heavily in renewables yet still have to rely on fossil fuel power plants due to reliability issues. He says that additional energy storage will allow the utility industry to produce sustainable power at an affordable cost.
With only a few months at GVEA, Travis says he is still assessing his department and developing a leadership plan. He says the power supply, operations and engineering teams are well-built, and employees are dedicated to their work. In addition to regular duties, Travis also wants to encourage employees to focus on career growth and continuing education.
“It’s pretty hard to say what I’m looking for this early on,” Travis says. “I want to continue developing the same inclusive culture and cooperative spirit that I achieved at Copper Valley Electric.”
Though Travis’ background is in electrical engineering, he has also rounded out his education with a Master of Business Administration certification in addition to other leadership certifications. However, he says there are many avenues for anyone looking to join the utility industry. College is 1 option, but so are apprenticeship programs. In fact, Travis served on the CVEA Board of Directors for several years before working for the company. At the time, he worked at the Alaska HAARP facility, building infrastructure and installing high-frequency transmitters. CVEA recruited Travis while he was still a board member and he resigned to accept a full-time position at the utility.
Travis is originally from Garfield, Washington, a small community in the eastern part of the state. He moved to Alaska in 2005 to work at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program facility. He says the transition to Fairbanks has been seamless for his wife and two school-aged daughters, who have all felt very welcomed. He and his family look forward to enjoying the outdoor activities here. Travis loves running, physical fitness, hunting, fishing and camping. He also likes reading, and woodworking and looks forward to building a new garden in their home next year.