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Georgia Power exec moves, leaves community legacy

After nearly nine years at the helm of Georgia Power’s Coastal Region, Cathy Hill has taken on new responsibilities in Atlanta as vice president of the company’s statewide Land Department. The first woman to hold her position in Savannah, and one of the company’s first female engineers, she leaves the coastal region — which stretches from Statesboro and Savannah to St. Mary’s south of Brunswick — with an extensive list of accomplishments, both at the company and community levels.

“In addition to her exceptional corporate leadership, Cathy immersed herself in countless areas of the community,” said Swann Seiler, manager of Corporate Communications for Georgia Power.

“So many organizations benefited from her strategic thinking and vision. Her energy will certainly be missed.”

As for Hill, she describes her time in Savannah as an extremely satisfying learning experience.

“Working in coastal Georgia over the past approximately nine years, I was very fortunate to lead Georgia Power’s efforts to develop solutions that improved quality of life by investing more than $450 million in infrastructure upgrades, $500,000 in charitable giving and 10,000 employee volunteer hours in community assistance,” Hill said.

In addition to facilitating regional economic development partnerships, accelerating redevelopment of River Street properties — including Plant Riverside and the original Savannah Electric building — and retiring inefficient power generation facilities, Georgia Power under Hill’s leadership made investments in a state-of-the-art network underground system in historic downtown Savannah as well as a robust high-voltage transmission system, outage-reducing distribution systems, automated customer service technology, and industry-leading renewable energy technology.

“There is no other area in Georgia where this many significant and diverse investments have been made,” she said, crediting her team of dedicated employees and additional Georgia Power partnerships throughout the state for the accomplishments.

Getting involved

Hill’s community contributions are equally impressive.

She is past chair of the boards of Armstrong State University Foundation, the Creative Coast and United Way of the Coastal Empire. She has also served on the boards of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, Savannah Technical College, Georgia Tech-Savannah, Memorial Medical Health Foundation, the Ossabaw Island Foundation, Step Up Savannah and SunTrust Bank Savannah.

ASU president Linda Bleicken said from the moment Hill arrived in Savannah, she began looking for ways to make her new home a better place.

“I have always valued Cathy’s ability to identify needs in the community and then do something substantive to address them,” Bleicken said.

“Early on, she involved me in the Women’s Legacy Network, a subset of the United Way that connects women with other women to provide resources that allow them to create better lives for themselves and their families.

“Cathy had been a part of this in Atlanta, and she thought we needed it here, too.”

In addition to her work on the Armstrong Foundation and its Educational Property Foundation Board of Trustees, Hill was very involved with the 100 Black Men of Savannah, Bleicken said.

“In fact, she was one of the people who first acquainted me with their work, which led to the creation of a vital MOVE program and Collegiate 100 chapter at Armstrong.”

On the Savannah Economic Development Authority board, Hill served as secretary-treasurer, where her input and expertise was highly valued, said Trip Tollison, SEDA president and CEO.

“Not only has Cathy excelled during her time here as a regional vice president for Georgia Power, her involvement with a variety of organizations and causes will have a lasting impact on our community,” Tollison said.

“The Savannah region is a better place because of Cathy Hill,” he said.

‘A true leader’

Linda Zoller, whose longtime community involvement includes co-founding the Ronald McDonald House and serving as chair of the Youth Futures Authority, said Hill’s quiet strength was an example to other leaders.

“Cathy spearheaded the formation of the Women’s Legacy Council here, bringing together a group of local women leaders who weren’t really familiar with the concept and educating them about what such a council could do.

“She recognized that what worked in Atlanta might look different in Savannah and, rather than point out how it was done there, she encouraged us to put our community’s stamp on it,” Zoller said.

“That to me is the epitome of a true leader — that she could take a diverse group of strong women and gently lead them to consensus on an important issue.

“Savannah will continue to benefit from Cathy Hill’s legacy of leadership long after she is gone.”

The feeling is clearly mutual.

“I will miss the people I’ve worked with in coastal Georgia, both inside and outside of Georgia Power — they will always hold a special place in my heart,” Hill said last week.

“There is a common work ethic and value system across the coastal region that is second to none. “If that wasn’t clear before Hurricane Matthew, there is surely no doubt now.”

The Cathy Hill story

From an early age, the Dublin native was drawn to math and science.

“Back then, if you were a female with a math and science leaning, you went into the medical profession,” Hill said. “So, I decided to be a doctor.”

Then Georgia Tech came calling.

“I hadn’t really considered engineering — I was intrigued,” she said.

By the time she graduated from Tech with a degree in electrical engineering, she already had three summer internships with Georgia Power under her belt.

“Each one taught me something valuable,” Hill said. “That first summer we had a strike and, with the linemen out, I got to see how all sides of the company operated under tough conditions.

“The second summer I spent at Plant Wansley near Carrollton where I got to go inside a cooling tower and see the inner workings of a turbine.”

Her third summer was spent in middle Georgia, where Plant Scherer was under construction.

“By that time, I was hooked.”

More than 30 years later, Hill’s experience has run the gamut from field operations in tiny Kingsland to her most recent job as vice president of Georgia Power’s Coastal Region.

Hill credits her parents, Paul and Glenda Plummer, with giving her the confidence and temperament to succeed in a business arena dominated by men.

“My mom was a jack of all trades and believed anything was possible,” Hill said. “She was never one to say ‘You can’t do that.’

“On the other hand, my dad was more the ‘Stop, consider all the options,’ voice of reason.

“It gave me great balance.”

Birth order helped, too.

“As the oldest girl among five children, I was expected to be the responsible one,” Hill said, laughing. “That could be a pain sometimes, but it gave me a real sense of self-confidence. It never occurred to me I couldn’t be successful in a male-dominated work environment.”

One of the many jobs she’s held with her company was overseeing the maintenance and operations of the company’s fleet of 4,700-plus vehicles, from light trucks and cars to heavy construction equipment.

That, too, was a female first for her company and a memory that always makes her smile.

“When I was in school, I had this little VW and my daddy was always fussing over it, checking the oil and the tires,” she said. “He was convinced I needed help maintaining it.

“Then, here I was, in charge of nearly 5,000 vehicles,” she said.

“All I could think was ‘if only my dad could see this,’” she said, laughing.

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