Chief Executive Officer
Jerry Forte was appointed chief executive officer in January 2006 following four years of service as chief operating officer for Colorado Springs Utilities. He oversees approximately 1,800 employees that are dedicated to providing more than a half million customers with electric, natural gas, water and wastewater services.
As a City Council appointee, Jerry is accountable for the management and operation of a $1 billion budget. Under his leadership, the organization has streamlined many operations, saving customers money and improving employee safety and efficiency. He also provides leadership and direction to ensure the continuation of superior energy reliability, adequate water supply, safe wastewater system practices and environmental compliance of all utility systems. His team continuously studies opportunities to add more renewable energy to the Colorado Springs generating capacity as well as opportunities for conservation and environmental stewardship.
Jerry has worked in the public and private sectors of the utility industry for a number of years. Since his appointment to Colorado Springs Utilities as the chief executive officer, Jerry has continued to focus on the four goals he wants to deliver to customers: reliable service, low rates, and customer and employee satisfaction.
Jerry returned to his hometown of Colorado Springs after serving the communities of Sterling, Colorado and Woodland Park, Colorado. He also worked in the private sector as a consulting engineer. He managed Johnson Control’s five-service utility in support of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he received awards for excellence in customer satisfaction and leadership excellence. He also has several publications to his credit.
Jerry holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado and is a registered professional engineer. He is a member of the American Water Works Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Society of Professional Engineers. Jerry has served on the Rocky Mountain Electrical League Board of Directors, The Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and The Pikes Peak United Way Campaign Council, and is currently serving as a Board Trustee for the Pikes Peak United Way.
Chief Planning and Finance Officer
Bill Cherrier earned his bachelor of science degree in accounting from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He is a certified public accountant.
Before joining Colorado Springs Utilities in 2005, Bill worked for Alliant Energy Generation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as manager of finance and development. He has more than 26 years of experience in the utility industry.
While at Springs Utilities, Bill has led the financing of a $1.6 billion, five-year capital program, and completed $1.2 billion in tax exempt debt bond financing in the last three years. He has provided leadership on matters related to budgeting and financial planning; financing activities including debt issuance; financial risk management; credit rating agency relationships; and administering procurement policies and processes.
Bill has been involved in the Colorado Springs community since making his home here, and has served on the board of directors for Care and Share Food Bank. Additionally, he is a past member of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa YMCA and Hillcrest Family Services.
Chief Customer and Corporate Services Officer
Carl Cruz earned his master’s in business administration from Western New England College and a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Manhattan College.
Carl is a veteran of the United States Air Force, where he served honorably for 21 years, and retired as a squadron commander at Schriever Air Force Base, CO. With a total of 35 years of professional experience, Carl began his Colorado Springs Utilities career in 2000, serving as a Manager and General Manager in the Corporate and Customer Services Division.
Carl has been heavily involved in the Colorado Springs community, and is currently serving on the board of directors for two non-profit organizations; Cheyenne Village, a local non-profit that helps hundreds of developmentally disabled adults live productive and fulfilling lives and REACH Pikes Peak which helps thousands in El Paso County address emergency needs, job skills training, acquiring assets and education for at-risk youths.
Chief Water Services Officer
Dan Higgins has more than 20 years of experience in the utility industry and has held leadership positions throughout our four services, with a focus on a variety of critical projects. He brings strong technical expertise and strategic planning to this role.
His career at Colorado Springs Utilities first began in an engineering position in the natural gas department, where he was responsible for ensuring our gas system met environmental and safety compliance standards, and also serving as our liaison to the Public Utilities Commission for Gas Pipeline Safety.
He soon moved into a project management section manager position, where his primary focus was implementing major capital projects and serving as our client representative for the Federal Clean Water Act litigation.
After serving in this capacity, he was asked to serve as the deputy director for the Southern Delivery System project where he and his team established the overall program management framework for design, construction and delivery of our $880 million water conveyance and treatment system spanning multiple jurisdictions.
More recently, Dan served as interim General Manager for Energy Supply with a focus on the successful project management and implementation of the plant emissions control projects and NERC compliance.
Sherri Newell Wilkinson
Chief Strategy and External Affairs Officer
Sherri Newell Wilkinson is an executive leader with Colorado Springs Utilities, one of the largest four-service utility providers in the nation. With more than 30 years of experience in municipal and investor-owned utilities, she has worked extensively with electric, natural gas, water, wastewater and non-regulated utility services.
Sherri leads the Strategy and External Affairs team, which includes the functional areas of Strategic Planning; Corporate Governance; Government and Corporate Affairs; Community Relations; and Records and Information Management. She is accountable for enabling utility service line operations by proactively engaging our community and our local, regional, state and federal stakeholders to satisfy customer expectations and achieve business goals and positive bottom line results for the organization.
Sherri protects and enhances the image and reputation of the organization through strategic counsel and public policy development; identifying and mitigating strategic risks; managing governance processes and policies in support of the Board; public and media relations and communication; stakeholder engagement and outreach; issues and crisis management; implementation of required organizational information protection; strengthening community presence; employee volunteer management; and customer assistance fund program management.
Additional career experience includes marketing, sales and sales management, economic development, customer research, product management, and business and fund development. She earned an MBA from New Mexico State University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from Eastern New Mexico University.
She has a reputation for community engagement and is personally involved in a number of local organizations as a board member and volunteer. Sherri is president of the Colorado Springs Utilities Foundation. She was an inaugural board member for the Greater Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance; a board member of the Colorado Springs Conservatory and serves on the Pikes Peak United Way Leaders in Giving Committee. In addition, she is a past chair and board member of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and past chair of the Junior League of Colorado Springs Sustainer Council.
David Padgett, Chief Environment, Health & Safety Officer
David Padgett has over 30 years of experience in the environmental field. After earning a bachelor of science degree in Microbiology from Colorado State University, he began his professional career with the Denver-based Johns-Manville corporation in 1981, conducting emissions testing and environmental compliance audits at manufacturing plants throughout the U.S.
Since joining Colorado Springs Utilities in 1985 to develop and implement a compliance auditing program, he has served in various capacities, including Environmental Affairs Administrator, Director of Environment, Health and Safety, Manager of Environmental Services, and interim roles as General Manager of Planning and Engineering and Chief Water Services Officer.
David is a founding member and past Chair of the National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals, past member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee and speaker on various aspects of EHS management at the local, state and national level for such organizations as the American Public Power Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado Counties, Inc., Rocky Mountain Electrical League, Leadership Pikes Peak, and Public Risk Management. He has invested time in the community through soccer coaching, school involvement, and Colorado Springs Utilities’ Community Focus Fund.
Chief Energy Services Officer
Eric Tharp is an accomplished municipal utility executive who has broad exposure to many different facets of running a large utility. He brings deep electric utility experience, strong leadership skills and experience working with communities, policymakers, boards and city councils.
Eric has more than 30 years of experience at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest municipal utility in the United States, with 12-plus years of experience as a senior executive managing several different departments. He has managed budgets as large as $1.5 billion and groups of employees in excess of 500.
The first decade of his career was spent as an engineer and construction supervisor, first for the water department and then electric department. This early experience provided him with
the nuts and bolts understanding of how a utility works, providing him the grounding and perspective to take on additional roles.
The second decade of his career moved him out of the technical realm and into the world of Public Affairs, Marketing and Legislative Affairs. The last decade of Eric's career has focused on the generation business. During this part of his career, Eric oversaw the development of integrated resource plans, as well as the coal transition strategy. During this time period, Eric also did a rotation as the Director of Strategic Initiatives, which in addition to other things, was responsible for the utility's strategy around Smart Grid and overseeing the company's Smart Grid demonstration program.
Eric's career experiences and views on public power are a good match for Colorado Springs Utilities. His experience leading external generation, which involves facilities owned by multiple parties, and his years of regulatory and public affairs have taught him how to build consensus and lead multiple groups of stakeholders to win-win situations.
Colorado Springs Utilities' Organizational Chart