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For new Alabama Power CEO Jeff Peoples, business is all about people

There may not be a more aptly named CEO than Alabama Power‘s Jeff Peoples.

For him, it’s always been and continues to be about people. Why not? He considers himself one of them – a working guy.

From his start as a chemical technician at Plant Miller, through various executive roles and, now as the head of the company, Peoples takes time to note the individuals he has worked with along the way. He has been instrumental in all phases of workforce training across the Southern Company system, and in the development of the Council on Culture and Inclusion at Alabama Power.

“Alabama Power continues to be a strong partner for the people of Alabama and the state as a whole, especially as we prepare for the economy of tomorrow,” said Gov. Kay Ivey said. “I am confident Jeff will bring strong leadership as he takes the helm at Alabama Power.

“From his time as a chemical technician to now as CEO, Jeff has provided a great service to this company and our state,” Ivey said. “I look forward to continue working with him as Alabama charges ahead into the future.”

RELATED: Alabama Power names Jeff Peoples as its new CEO

Roger Marbutt is director of Technical Training with Southern Company Services and has worked with Peoples for many years. He said that love for people stems from the CEO’s upbringing.

“I think it goes back to how he was raised,” Marbutt said. “His great-grandfather worked in the coal mines, as did his grandfather, and his father was a blacksmith at ACIPCO, so it’s always been about hard work and family with Jeff.”

Marbutt said Peoples as a leader exhibits a respect for members of his team.

“He always sets clear expectations, gives them the tools to be successful and rewards them when they do their job,” he said.

That’s indicative of Peoples’ path to the C-suite. He didn’t start out in a corporate office. But his time at each stop throughout his career prepared him in various ways for the next one.

“I was able to see just how wide-ranging the work is that goes into what Alabama Power does and how everyone has a vital role in serving customers and the state,” Peoples said. “Everyone is important.”

In his nearly 40-year career, Peoples has held positions in diverse functions ranging from generation, technical field services, human resources, marketing and economic development.

He also was executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Southern Company Gas and senior vice president of Operations Services for Southern Company Services.

These experiences have informed him and left an imprint as he takes the helm at one of the state’s largest companies.

“It’s easy to look at Alabama Power as a company but in reality, it’s people,” he said. “Our employees care about the work that they do, to be sure, but they also care about the state and the communities they live in. I see it every day and I hear about it as I visit different parts of the state.

“Our employees are fantastic representatives. I am proud of their work and our role within the state.”

Jeff Peoples was instrumental in the creation of the Council on Culture and Inclusion at Alabama Power. (Powergrams)

Some of Peoples’ earliest leadership roles at Alabama Power were in training and development. That would lead to his job as director of Human Resources. His emphasis on elevating employees and his passion for workforce development was apparent.

Peoples would go on to become vice president of Human Resources, senior vice president of Employee Services and Labor Relations and then executive vice president of Customer and Employee Services. Whether it’s employees or customers, Peoples has always been about people.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Jeff in various roles from his days in training to executive leadership and have seen firsthand how much Jeff cares about the Alabama Power team,” said Casey Shelton, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers System Council U-19 business manager. “His commitment to our members, their safety, ongoing training and development is unparalleled – and on top of our professional relationship, I consider him a friend.”

“We value Jeff’s leadership and the partnership we’ve developed over the years and are looking forward to continuing to work together to help shape the future of Alabama Power and our state,” he continued.

In 2017, Peoples facilitated the negotiation of a national labor agreement between North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and local contractors, helping develop one of the strongest labor-management partnerships in the country. Since that time, Alabama Power has partnered with NABTU and TradesFutures to offer apprenticeship readiness programs across the Southeast, giving students hands-on training and educational services that introduce them to union crafts and the construction industry before they select a career trade.

“Jeff is in the business of changing lives for the better,” said NABTU President Sean McGarvey. “He knows the power and value of investing in local workers and training to uplift communities, and under his leadership, Alabama Power is doing just that.

“The impact Jeff has had on labor management relations has not only strengthened the partnership between NABTU and Alabama Power, he has cultivated a culture that prioritizes local workers and economic opportunity across the industry,” McGarvey said.

In 2018, Peoples became a founding member of the Alabama Power Council on Culture and Inclusion, which focuses on building an environment of inclusion, respect and fairness, while leveraging the diverse talents of all employees.

But it’s not just Alabama Power’s workforce and customers where Peoples has focused.

As a board member of nonprofit organizations such as CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, the National Utility Industry Training Fund, Paths for Success Foundation and TradesFutures, Peoples has demonstrated his desire to see workforce training and development improve the lives of all people in Alabama and elsewhere.

“I’m ecstatic that Jeff Peoples was selected as CEO of Alabama Power, especially knowing that he has focused squarely on workforce development and education programming over the years,” said Ed Castile, director of the state workforce training and development agency AIDT, and deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“With the workforce issues confronting all states today, having Alabama Power involved in many of our initiatives to find and implement solutions represents a huge advantage for us,” Castile said. “I welcome and congratulate Jeff in his new role.”

In 2020, Peoples was named to the U.S. Council on Competitiveness’ advisory committee for the National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers.

“Addressing the challenges facing innovation in the U.S. and developing a workforce prepared for future jobs is essential for economic growth,” Peoples said at the time. “This work aligns with Alabama Power’s focus on building economic and workforce development partnerships that strengthen communities and elevate Alabama. The work of the commission is a catalyst for the U.S. to be more competitive internationally.”

His work on the board of the Alabama Power Foundation is also centered on his desire to help people.

Jeff Peoples has been a proponent of the life-changing opportunities provided by lineworker training programs like the one at Jefferson State Community College. (Powergrams)

Peoples played instrumental roles in the creation of the HVAC training program at Bevill State Community College in Jasper and in lineworker training programs at Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Trenholm State Community College in Montgomery, and Jefferson State Community College and Lawson State Community College in Birmingham.

“With Jeff’s approach to economic development and community impact – you can tell that he sees names and faces,” said Leigh Davis, Alabama Power’s senior vice president for Marketing and Economic Development. “Some people think about these things in the abstract, in terms of the collective good. But Jeff talks about the impact on families and individuals whose lives are improved by the projects we work on, the initiatives we support. Numbers and percentages are important because they demonstrate the overall impact, and Jeff can tell you the numbers, too. More often, though, when he talks about opportunity, it’s more personal than that.”

For students like N’Kiyah Johnson, enrolling in the lineworker training program at Lawson State Community College was life-changing. Today, she is an apprentice lineman with Alabama Power’s Patton Chapel crew in Birmingham.

“It’s a big accomplishment at a young age,” Johnson said. “For me to have it figured out and with a career at my age, I feel like I’m ahead.”

N’Kiyah Johnson shares her experience in Alabama’s lineworker training program at Lawson State Community College from Alabama News Center on Vimeo.

Peoples’ devotion to bettering the lives of people throughout the state can be seen through his support of the fiber infrastructure that is being deployed for grid reliability and enabling rural broadband opportunities and partnerships. This deployment has mostly occurred in rural and underserved areas, paving the way for high-speed internet service and an improved quality of life through its application to benefit education, business, healthcare and more.

In the same time period that Alabama Power has increased its fiber expansion, the state has gone from 47th nationwide in broadband connectivity to ranking 38th in 2022.

Broadband expansion strengthens the power grid, providing greater reliability for the benefit of Alabama Power customers, but also elevating the entire state.

Peoples embraces Alabama Power’s longtime commitment to economic development because he knows how it improves the lives of individuals and families. He is chairman of the board of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.

His commitment to people is hardly ending now that he is CEO. In fact, it’s broadening and intensifying.

March 3 was National Employee Appreciation Day, and it was one of the first times since the pandemic began that Alabama Power held a large, in-person celebration for employees at its corporate headquarters. The smile on Peoples’ face, being with his co-workers, said it all.

“We’re going to do more of this,” he told the crowd. “The work you do is recognized and appreciated. I’m honored to be on your team.”

Alabama Power has a man of the people as leader – and he is aptly named. Stay tuned.

This story originally appeared in Powergrams.

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