Chuck Whitney is charting a new course at Oglethorpe Power as its GC. What is he up to now?
After nine years as a partner at Duane Morris, one of Chuck Whitney's key clients asked him to create and lead the company's legal department. Atlanta-based Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the nation's largest power supply cooperative, was planning to grow its energy portfolio and wanted more inhouse legal capability. Chuck, who served as managing partner of the firm's Atlanta office, was just the lawyer to steer the ship. Now the senior vice president and general counsel of Oglethorpe—and recently appointed to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Lawyers Committee—Chuck spoke with Alumni Spotlight to discuss his transition from Duane Morris partner to Duane Morris client.
Q: You are the first general counsel at Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the nation's largest power-supply cooperative. What was first on your to-do list?
A: We're in growth mode, and it's very exciting. There are two major priorities right now. First, as the chief legal officer, I'm creating a legal department from scratch. Second, I'm working on building new generation plants. Right now, we're working on a biomass plant that is going to be powered using wood chips, a nuclear plant and a gas-fired generating plant.
Q: This is your first in-house job after spending two decades at law firms as well as a decade as CEO of Southern Company's European International Energy subsidiary. How is the transition?
A: This is the perfect job for me. I enjoy being on a small executive team and building something. Next year is really a building year as we staff the in-house department.
Q: How did you get the job?
A: I had been doing legal work for Oglethorpe for about two years while at Duane Morris. They saw a need as they were entering into a growth program to better manage legal matters from in-house. They knew me and my abilities.
Q: What are your impressions as a client of Duane Morris?
A: I know the people at Duane Morris, and I know their skill sets. I feel confident in making a phone call and asking a question—knowing I've got the right person on the line. They are experienced, capable people who are very competent and who respond confidently. Whatever the project, they can do it in spades. Bob Prentice and Albee Bates are working on the new construction program. Steve Teichler and Sheila Hollis are working on a gas initiative. I just hired Eric Berezin do to some OSHA work.
Q: What do you do when you're not working?
A: My son is in London, and he and his wife are having a baby soon. I travel a lot to see them. We lived in London for three years, and I enjoy playing golf there and in Scotland. I also like to shoot in the fall. And I have a princess of a granddaughter.
Q: What is your fondest memory of Duane Morris?
A: I enjoyed heading up the Atlanta office. My best memories are of [Chairman Emeritus] Shelly Bonovitz and later [Chairman] John Soroko coming down to spend time with us in the Atlanta office. It gave us a chance to sit and discuss the firm's strategy.