by SUSAN M. BRACKNEY
Twenty-three years to the day after she joined Hoosier Energy as executive vice president and chief financial officer, Donna Walker was named the electric cooperative’s president and CEO.
“In the company’s 70-year history, I am the fourth CEO and the first woman,” Walker says.
“Women tend not to apply for senior level positions, but I encourage them to,” she says. “So often they think they shouldn’t apply unless they are completely qualified to step into the position on day one.” But, with confidence and the right skill set, Walker says, “They’ll figure out the parts they don’t know once they get there.”
The 54-year-old Paoli, Indiana, native earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University in 1986. She officially took over her new role last November. Since then she’s been championing the company’s emphasis on green energy initiatives.
“We’ve been going through diversification over the past couple of years to add more renewable types of resources into our mix,” Walker says. Among those are wind, water, and solar energy sources. “We also have some landfill gas where we use the methane rather than letting it escape into the atmosphere,” she adds. “So it’s a really wide variety.”
Staying connected to Hoosier Energy’s workforce is particularly important to Walker. “One of the things I’ve done is to situate myself in a busy workspace in a hallway where employees can come in and out of my office,” she says. During her transition to president and CEO, the Bloomington resident took to the road, meeting one-on-one with each of the Hoosier Energy distribution cooperative members and their CEOs. “That was 36 folks in total,” Walker says. “I plan to continue doing that on an annual basis.”
Walker is married with two children and two stepchildren. It’s a busy life, but even during her minimal free time she keeps an eye on electricity. An avid runner with numerous half-marathons, three full marathons, and an ultramarathon under her belt, Walker says that when she first started running, she used electric poles as guideposts. “I lived in a rural part of Monroe County at the time,” she recalls. “I would run between two poles and then I would walk and then I would run and then I would walk—and that was actually one of our member systems.”