Board of Directors

Serving responsibly

ReliabilityFirst’s Board of Directors governs and oversees ReliabilityFirst’s activities according to the corporation’s bylaws and its delegation agreement with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). We have a hybrid board structure that ensures both independence and diverse industry representation. The pages below provide more detail on our board structure and will introduce you to our directors and their expertise

Our board also has four committees that support it: Risk and Compliance, Compensation, Nomination and Governance, and Finance and Audit. The board and its committees meet regularly with at least three open meetings a year.  

To learn more about upcoming meetings or to find prior minutes or other governing documents, visit the Board & Governance Documents page.

Antonio Smyth – Chair

Supplier Sector | Term Expires: 2026

Antonio Smyth is executive vice president of Grid Solutions and Government Affairs. Smyth leads the origination and planning of AEP’s multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investment programs across electric generation, transmission, distribution, and telecommunications. In addition, he is responsible for leading AEP’s national policy and legislative efforts, as well as overseeing the company’s regulatory activity at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and four Regional Transmission Organizations.
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Smyth also oversees the management and all aspects of electric service for AEP’s transmission joint venture utility companies across the United States. Smyth most recently served as senior vice president of Grid Solutions, where he led the commercial development of new grid resources, including the corporation’s investments in large-scale electric generation projects, renewable energy projects, competitive transmission, energy storage, and emerging technologies. Prior to that, he was senior vice president of Transmission Ventures, Strategy and Policy, where he led transmission strategy, finance, commercial development activities, and federal regulatory and policy for AEP’s $30 billion electric transmission business. He has also held key leadership roles in the Strategic Initiatives organization, which is responsible for corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions, and in the Corporate Finance organization, which is responsible for debt and equity capital markets, rating agency activities, market risk, and balance sheet management for AEP’s parent and subsidiary utility companies.

Smyth serves as the chair of the board directors of the Reliability First Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio and is a member of the Compensation Committee. He also serves as a board member of Electric Transmission Texas, LLC, an electric infrastructure joint venture between AEP and Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Smyth is a trustee of the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio, and is the co-executive sponsor of AEP.’s Black Employee Resource Group and AEP’s Environmental and Social Justice Initiative. Smyth is a United States military veteran and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s degree in applied economics from Ohio State University. He has completed the executive leadership program at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University and director certification through the National Association of Corporate Directors. He and his family reside in Columbus, Ohio.

Nelson Peeler – Vice Chair

Transmission Sector | Term Expires: 2024

Nelson Peeler serves as Duke Energy’s Senior Vice President of Grid Planning and Integration. He leads the organization responsible for Duke Energy’s fuel supply, system optimization, long-term transmission planning, and developing strategies and investment proposals to provide clean, affordable and reliable energy.
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Prior to assuming his current position in July 2020, Peeler was the company’s chief transmission officer. In this role since 2016, he oversaw the safe, reliable and efficient operation of Duke Energy’s electric transmission system, which includes over 32,000 miles of high-voltage power lines and more than 3,000 substations in six states.

Peeler has more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry. He joined Duke Energy in 1988 and has held a variety of leadership positions in power delivery, system planning and operations, performance support, engineering, construction, business planning, contract management, process improvement and training. He served as vice president of transmission system planning and operations, where he had responsibility for real-time monitoring and control of the company’s bulk electric transmission system. He also served on the merger integration teams leading up to Duke Energy’s mergers with Cinergy in 2006 and Progress Energy in 2012. The Faith, N.C., native graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and an MBA from Queens University. He is a registered professional engineer in North Carolina and South Carolina. Peeler currently serves on the boards of directors of the SERC Reliability Corporation and the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council. He is a current board member and former board chair of the North American Transmission Forum and serves as chair of the Reliability Issues Steering Committee (RISC) for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). Additionally, he is president of the North Carolina State Engineering Foundation and a member of the N.C. State Electrical and Computer Engineering Hall of Fame.

Patrick Cass

Lead Independent Director | Term Expires: 2026

Patrick Cass has over 35 years of experience in the accounting and advisory services industry. He most recently worked as Executive in Residence at the University of Louisville College of Business, teaching in the undergraduate and masters accounting programs.
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Mr. Cass worked from 2002 to 2009 for Ernst & Young LLC, where he served as an office managing partner, audit partner, advisory services partner, and regional leader of the energy industry practice. Prior to 2002, he worked for Andersen Worldwide for 29 years, where he ultimately served as an office managing partner, audit partner, and regional utility industry leader.

Mr. Cass has experience serving audit committees of the boards of over 20 public companies in four United States markets, and has over 25 years of experience serving as a board member on non-profit organizations and their associated audit, finance and executive committees. Mr. Cass holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bowling Green State University. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Steve Ambrose

Steve Ambrose

Medium LSE Sector | Term Expires: 2025

Steven Ambrose is Vice President and Chief Information Officer for DTE Energy and is responsible for securing, operating, and applying the company’s information technology assets toward achieving the company’s strategic objectives. In this role, he oversees enterprise IT utility and non-utility operations, IT project portfolio execution, cyber security and technology compliance activities including SOX, NERC CIP, TSA, and PCI, and serves as the chair of DTE’s technology investment committee.
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Ambrose also engages in the utility technology industry through the UNITE Consortium, Edison Electric Institute’s CEO Executive Advisory and Security and Technology Committees. In addition to his technology responsibilities, Ambrose serves on DTE’s Project Management Excellence committee, NERC Executive committee, Financial Controls Assessment committee, Improving Customer Relationships committee and is the executive sponsor for the Asian and Middle Eastern American (AMEA) Employee Energy Group. Prior to his current role, Ambrose was director of Enterprise Performance Management where he was responsible for the oversight of corporate performance and served as the chief of staff to the CEO where he coordinated various corporate wide initiatives.

Ambrose joined DTE Energy in 1998 and served in a variety of progressively more responsible information technology (IT) roles including the oversight of the company’s enterprise business systems, the IT operations of DTE Energy’s non-utility affiliates and the stewardship of the company’s IT strategy and enterprise architecture. Ambrose engages in board service for Michigan’s entrepreneurial technology sector including the Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MIBA), DTE’s joint venture Powerley and previously TechTown Detroit. In addition, he supports STEM education through board service with FIRST in Michigan (FIRST Robotics), United Way’s Tech United and the Michigan Science Center. Ambrose earned an MBA with high distinction from the University of Michigan, a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bellevue College. He also served in the United States Air Force earning the rank of Staff Sergeant and an honorable discharge.

Joanna Burkey

Independent Director | Term Expires: 2025

Joanna Burkey currently leads global cybersecurity efforts for HP, Inc. where she is responsible for the organization’s cybersecurity program, including IT infrastructure, technology platforms and business units. Her career has been dedicated to cybersecurity and technology, spending roles in engineering, product strategy, security evangelism and business development. She is a publicly recognized thought leader and speaker who is passionate about growing diversity throughout technology roles.

Lesley Evancho

Independent Director | Term Expires: 2025

Lesley Evancho is the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) for EQT, which is one of the largest natural gas producers in the country. In her current role, Ms. Evancho’s responsibilities include HR strategy and innovation, total rewards, employee/labor relations, organizational transformation, mergers and acquisitions, culture, talent, HR Operations, risk, and compliance. She also serves as the Management lead for the Compensation and Development Committee at EQT.
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Ms. Evancho has extensive experience in human capital planning, total rewards, talent management, and culture. Since joining EQT, her accomplishments include dramatically improving employee satisfaction scores, helping the company create its new values statement, and navigating the current “war on talent” through improvements in leadership capability and overhauling goals and reviews. Ms. Evancho previously served as the Vice President, Global Talent Management and Corporate Human Resources at Westinghouse Electric Company and prior to that she held a variety of human resource roles at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Rice Energy, and MSA Safety. Ms. Evancho holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources from Florida State University. Ms. Evancho also serves in leadership roles at Pittsburgh CLO, a nonprofit centered around the city’s performing arts community, while also participating in the diversity and inclusion and Covid-19 sub-committees.

Timothy R. Gallagher

Non-Voting Member | Term Expires: N/A

As President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Gallagher oversees ReliabilityFirst, one of the six federally recognized Regional Entities charged with setting and enforcing mandatory reliability standards, as well as assessing and reporting on the expected reliability performance of the Bulk Electric System in thirteen states and the District of Columbia.
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Mr. Gallagher has held this position since the inception of ReliabilityFirst in January 2006, and he is a non-voting member of the ReliabilityFirst Board of Directors. Prior to joining ReliabilityFirst, Mr. Gallagher was a senior executive at GridAmerica, LLC, the nation’s first multi-system independent transmission company. His background is centered squarely in electric system reliability, having spent time on the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) staff where he was responsible for NERC’s compliance, standards, and reliability assessment programs. Before his tenure at NERC, Mr. Gallagher worked in the electric power industry in a variety of engineering and leadership positions in electric system planning, system protection and system operations. Mr. Gallagher is a licensed Professional Engineer in Ohio, a graduate of the GE Power Systems Engineering School, a former NERC-Certified System Operator, and was publicly elected to serve on the Governing Board of the Summit County Educational Service Center. He currently serves as a Director on the board of Vantage Aging, a not for profit agency whose mission is to support the needs of older adults wishing to age in place and live independently with dignity.

Craig Grooms

Small LSE Sector | Term Expires: 2026

Craig Grooms serves as Chief Operating Officer with Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives and Buckeye Power and is responsible for organizational activities related to commercial operations, enterprise risk management, power generation, RTO policy, information technology, power delivery engineering and reliability compliance.
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Prior to joining Buckeye Power, he worked for NRG Energy and Dayton Power & Light in a variety of positions related to energy marketing, electric system operations and natural gas system operations. Craig received an MBA from Otterbein University and a Bachelor of Science in engineering technology from the University of Dayton. He is a graduate of NRECA’s Management Internship Program and a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Craig currently serves on the board of directors for the National Renewables Cooperative Organization and is a member of NRECA’s National Resolutions Committee.

Scott Hipkins

Transmission | Term Expires: 2024

Scott Hipkins, VP, Cyber Security and CISO, FirstEnergy Corp. is the VP, Cyber Security and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at FirstEnergy Corp. Scott’s responsibilities include cybersecurity policy, governance, training, protections, controls, incident response and monitoring.
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Scott began his utility career with FirstEnergy Service Company in 1998 on the IT Security team. He has held various leadership positions in IT Operations, Cyber Security and NERC CIP Compliance. During his tenure, Scott has led strategic efforts to implement both FirstEnergy’s network operations center (NOC) and integrated security operations center (SOC). Scott holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from Youngstown State University. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) . Scott is also an active participant in the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Cybersecurity Program (P183), the Edison Electric Institute’s cybersecurity program efforts, the North American Transmission Forum’s (NATF) Security Practices Group.

Ken Seiler

Ken Seiler

RTO Sector | Term Expires: 2024

Mr. Seiler serves as Vice President, Planning and leads PJM’s System Planning Division. He is responsible for all activities related to resource adequacy, generation interconnection, interregional and transmission planning, including the development of the Regional Transmission Expansion Plan.
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Previously Mr. Seiler was Executive Director, System Operations and was responsible for the reliable operation and coordination of the bulk power system including PJM’s real time dispatch operations and near term reliability studies. Mr. Seiler oversaw the dispatcher training and certification functions as well as the markets coordination function to ensure the efficient and most cost effective dispatch of the generation fleet. At PJM, Mr. Seiler served as chair of the PJM Planning Committee and previously chaired the Operating Committee and the Senior Leadership Team at PJM. He worked in the Information Technology (I.T.) division as Sr. Director of Infrastructure and Operations. He also led the integration teams at PJM on the new energy management system and market management systems as part of the advanced control center (AC2) program. He also held various management roles in the System Planning and System Operations divisions, as well as serving on the RFC Reliability Committee, PJM Relay Subcommittee, the PJM Transmission and Substation Design Subcommittee, the PJM Interconnection Project Management Working Group and the PJM Transformer Working Group.

Mr. Seiler served on the board of directors for the Philadelphia Education Fund, which is the largest and most comprehensive provider of college access and career success programming in the city – offering services and resources targeting students, teachers, schools and the larger Philadelphia community. He is also on the board of directors for PJM Environmental Information Services, Inc. He currently serves as a mentor and instructor for the Mayfly Project which teaches fly fishing to foster children in central Pennsylvania. In his spare time, he is an avid fly fisherman and actively fishes across North America. He also enjoys hiking and camping.

Prior to joining PJM, Mr. Seiler was employed by Metropolitan Edison Co./GPU for nearly 14 years. He held the positions of Operations manager, Transmission Engineering manager, Relay Protection and Control Engineer, Substation/Transmission Construction and Maintenance engineer. Mr. Seiler earned a Master of Business Administration from Lebanon Valley College and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Pennsylvania State University.

Rachel Snead

Supplier Sector | Term Expires: 2024

Rachel W. Snead is Director, Environmental Services and is responsible for the oversight and direction of Dominion Energy’s Environmental Policy, Climate, and Linear Environmental Permitting teams including Solar, Electric Transmission, Electric Distribution, Gas, and Renewable Natural Gas.

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Snead joined Dominion Energy as an intern in 2005 and as a full-time employee in 2006, assuming her current role of Director, Environmental Services in October 2023. She has held a number of positions at Dominion Energy in NERC Compliance and Policy, Power Delivery, Corporate Public Policy, Alternative Energy Solutions, Generation System Planning, Gas Regulation Pricing, Integrated Resource Planning, and Human Resources.

Snead is a 2006 graduate of James Madison University, with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. She earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in corporate finance from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010.

Snead is currently a member of the ReliabilityFirst Board of Directors, Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) representative on the NERC Member Representatives Committee (MRC), and EEI Reliability Executive Advisory Committee (REAC) Leadership Team member. She is also involved in a number of philanthropic organizations including a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Virginia Trustee and a member of the Full Circle Grief Center Board of Directors.

Jennifer T. Sterling

Large LSE Sector | Term Expires: 2025

Jennifer T. Sterling is the Vice President, NERC Compliance & Security for Exelon.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering as well as a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, both from the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign.  She is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Illinois and is a Senior Member of the IEEE.  In 2016, she was awarded the IEEE PES Wanda Reder Pioneer in Power Award and in 2023, she was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Illinois Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

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In her current role, she is responsible for the oversight of the NERC Reliability Standards Compliance and the TSA Gas Cybersecurity Programs for Exelon.  She has held positions as the Exelon Director of Transmission Planning and in ComEd’s System Planning, Bulk Power Operations, Transmission Policy and Regulatory & Strategic Services Departments.

Jennifer is an active participant in industry working groups and forums.  She has served on NERC Standards Drafting Teams, the NERC Standards Committee and as an Investor-Owned Utility Sector Representative on the NERC Member Representatives Committee.  She is the past Chair of the NERC Project Management and Oversight Subcommittee as well as the past Chair of the NERC Member Representatives Committee.  She currently serves as the Chair of the EEI Reliability Executive Advisory Committee, as a member of the NERC RISC Committee, and as a member of the ReliabilityFirst Board of Directors.

Joe Trentacosta

Joe Trentacosta

At-Large Director | Term Expires: 2025

Joe Trentacosta is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO). He directs SMECO’s Customer and Enterprise Services Department consisting of the Information Technology (IT), Customer Service, Security, and Safety divisions. This includes managing the development and maintenance of the IT infrastructure and all IT business systems, implementing IT support strategies, and negotiating technology support and maintenance contracts.
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Mr. Trentacosta is also responsible for the overall development and maintenance of the SMECO’s security/compliance and safety programs, managing the operation of SMECO’s 24/7 customer care center, and directing the corporate credit and collections function. Mr. Trentacosta serves on the IT Program Advisory Council for both the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) and St. Mary’s County Public Schools. Most recently, he served as Board President for the Center for Children. He has also served on the Marcey House Advisory Board, the St. Mary’s County Human Services Council, the Father Andrew White School Advisory Board (Chairman), and the Calvert Career Center Local Advisory Council. Mr. Trentacosta holds an MBA in Finance from New York University, a BS in Information Systems from Fordham University and is a graduate of the Leadership Maryland Class of 2011.

Simon Whitelocke

At-Large Sector | Term Expires: 2024

Simon Whitelocke is Vice President of ITC Holdings Corp. and President of ITC Michigan, which includes the responsibility for both ITC Transmission and METC operating companies. Prior to this role, he was Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer for ITC Holdings Corp. where he was responsible for the corporate compliance functions of the company.
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Mr. Whitelocke also has served in other roles responsible for regulatory affairs, external affairs, and internal audit functions.   Prior to joining ITC, he was a Principal Financial Consultant for DTE Energy. Mr. Whitelocke earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree in accounting from the University of Toronto and an MBA in finance and management from Michigan State University. He is also a member of the Board of Directors, the Board of Trustees of Detroit Public Television, and the Board of Trustees of Legacy Land Conservancy.

Board Structure

ReliabilityFirst has a hybrid board structure designed to represent our unique history, diverse footprint and commitment to independence and deep industry knowledge. We were formed by a successful integration of three previously existing Regions (ECAR, MACC, and MAIN), and our Board structure was carefully designed to ensure balanced representation from the diverse entities across our footprint. 

Board of Directors Breakout

Type Count
At Large Directors 3
Independent Directors
Industry Directors 8
  • At-Large Directors: Three at-large director positions ensure geographic balance.
  • Independent Directors: Four independent director positions ensure independence and specific subject matter expertise.
  • Industry Directors: Eight industry sector director positions ensure entities have an equal voice, and the Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) Industry Sector director position rotates to a different RTO each term to ensure active and equal RTO representation and guidance.

    Industry directors can be further broken out to ensure that a well balanced and beneficial range of perspectives are represented.

    Industry Director Breakout

    Representing Count
    Suppliers 2
    Transmission Companies 2
    RTOs 1
    Small LSEs 1
    Medium LSEs 1
    Large LSEs 1