Concord Light Plant assistant director retires from second career
By Kimberly A. Hooper/Staff Writer
Wicked Local Concord Posted Aug 31, 2013
Concord — Dale Cronan said it was like night and day going from working at Boston Edison Electric to Concord Municipal Light Plant (CMLP).
While Cronan said he had a great career at the company now known as NSTAR, he said he always struggled with the fact that customer service did not always come first at the company.
“At Edison I spent my entire 33 years in the same department,” he said. “It was a big operation and it was difficult to get everyone motivated and working in the same direction. Because of stockholder needs, customer service was not as good as I would have liked it to have been.”
After more than 30 years of “fighting the good fight and not winning,” Cronan retired from Boston Edison and eight months later felt motivated to get back to work. He was offered a position with CMLP and said he was blown away every day, from the first day until his last, by how much the staff cares about its customers.
“The whole thing is about customer service,” he said. “Everyone understands that.”
After nearly 17 years working as assistant light plant director at CMLP, Cronan retired for the second and last time in his life last Friday. He said he’ll miss his coworkers and customers the most.
“This was just a great way to end my career in the utility business,” he said. “I started out on the dark side and ended up on a side that is amazing in terms of customer service. Customers here truly appreciate what we do.”
One customer-related experience Cronan will always remember happened many years ago when he got a call at work around 7 a.m. from a resident who was concerned about a tree limb hanging on an electrical wire in his front yard.
“He asked if someone could come and take a look at it,” Cronan said. “I told him someone would stop by. He said ‘that’s it?’ and I said ‘yes.’”
Minutes later Cronan dialed the Concord Municipal Light Plant’s (CMLP) line foreman and told him about the call. The foreman phoned one of the workers who was on a road right near the customer’s street and before the customer knew it, someone was taking care of the tree limb.
“I often wonder how many people he told this story to at cocktail parties,” Cronan said.
In CMLP’s summer newsletter, Cronan said at Edison he “interfaced with customers in 40 cities and towns,” and in his more than 30 years there, he doesn’t recall one customer ever saying how lucky they were to have Boston Edison as their utility.
“I can’t tell you how many times – unsolicited – I’ve heard that about Concord Light,” he said.
During Cronan’s time with CMLP he did a “little bit of everything” and worked on the insurance side as well as the customer service and management sides.
He managed power supply matters for the plant, including the transition from being a single wholesale power supplier to managing a diverse portfolio of power supply contracts. Cronan also helped expand Concord’s green power portfolio by adding hydro, wind and bio-fuel sources to its energy mix.
Cronan said he’s pleased to have started up the ETS – electric thermal storage – program at CMLP, which now has about 100 homes heating with off-peak power, as well as CMLP’s office building.
CMLP Director David Wood said the plant will certainly miss Cronan and his diverse skill set.
“Dale has been a dedicated employee and instrumental in establishing a diverse power supply portfolio,” Wood said. “His vision helped stabilize Concord's power supply portfolio while increasing our percentage of renewable energy sources at favorable prices.”
On Friday, CMLP staff gathered together to say goodbye to Cronan.
Carole Hilton, customer service administrator at CMLP, worked under Cronan for the three years she has been there. She said being brand new to the industry when she was hired she was lucky to have Cronan as her mentor.
“He approaches teaching with a Socratic method,” she said. “Because of his method and approach I learned so much from him about the industry. He’s so very patient and has an incredible wealth of knowledge about this industry.”
Hilton said it’s going to take a while to get used to not having Cronan around the office. She said whenever she needs her “Dale fixing” she’ll open his auto-reply email message that reads: “Hi, Effective August 23, 2013 I retired from Concord Light. Honk if you enjoyed it as much as I did!”
“This is just so like Dale,” she said.
Jan Aceti, energy conservation coordinator at CMLP, worked under Cronan for four years. She said she not only appreciated his deep knowledge and experience in the utility business, but also his talent for explaining complex and technical concepts to his coworkers and customers.
“He also has a really wonderful talent for making people laugh,” Aceti said. “He tells great stories. He’s able to put people at ease and creates an enjoyable atmosphere where people like to get things done. He was also really productive. I was often amazed how quickly he could turn work around. He just made my job easier and more enjoyable.”
In his retirement, Cronan said he looks forward to playing more golf and reading. He and his wife plan to move from Concord to Cape Cod in September.
He thanked the town of Concord for a wonderful experience he said he’ll never forget.
“Every day I came here I worked with a great bunch of people,” he said. “We get along well and it’s a lot of fun. I’m certainly going to miss that.”