BY ROB VARNON
In an industry that’s going through major and rapid consolidation, Aquarion Water Co. is intent on keeping key executives who have helped the Bridgeport utility acquire 27 companies in a year.
On Monday, Aquarion President and Chief Executive Charles V. Firlotte announced Newtown resident Donald J. Morrissey, the company’s chief financial officer, was promoted from vice president to executive vice president; Westport resident Doug Kniffin, chief information officer, is now a vice president; and Lucy Teixeira, of Trumbull, was made a vice president to go along with her duties as head of Aquarion’s customer services and human resources.
All three could post impressive resumes from last year’s activities alone, joining Firlotte in acquiring and consolidating 27 water systems in Connecticut, adding 10,000 customers. They’ve already announced two in 2012.
Ron W. Black, president of Water Systems Solution and Design Inc. in Watertown, said consolidation is happening nationally and is a logical progression for the industry.
Black, who with his father bought and ran water companies in Connecticut for 40 years, said regulatory requirements and the cost of upgrading systems are just too expensive for a small system to bear.
“It just makes sense for these small companies to consolidate,” he said, adding Aquarion has kept him on to operate the system and move forward with improvements. “My experience with them has been good.”
Having a team of executives with experience in acquisitions and mergers is valuable in the water industry, he noted. “We have thousands of small water companies,” he said.
Paul Timpanelli, president and chief executive of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said the three Aquarion executives and the company they work for are well respected.
“They’re critical,” Timpanelli said. “Morrissey is a great finance guy and Kniffin is a great IT guy.”
According to Aquarion, Morrissey, a certified public accountant, joined the company in 1995. One of his key assignments was to execute the company’s regulatory and acquisition strategies. He holds degrees from University of Connecticut and New York University.
Aquarion hired Kniffin in 2006, where he has covered all aspects of the company’s IT strategy, operations, development and security, and purchasing operations. He created company’s first Business Operations and Disaster Recovery plans. He’s a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and Columbia University.
Teixeira joined Aquarion in 1990 and has worked in a number of departments. As the company has expanded, her role has become more demanding, but the company noted Aquarion was ranked as one of the top places to work in Connecticut in a survey conducted by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers. She’s a graduate of Fairfield University.
The American Water Works Association said consolidation is just a part of the industry and the pace is expected to somewhat fall this year with 20 percent of respondents saying they expect a merger to happen.
Donald E. Gibson, Dean of Fairfield University’s Dolan School of Business and a professor of management, said these types of promotions are more rare than they used to be, which underscores how valued these executives are.
“Organizations have been flattening, which reduces opportunity for promotion,” he said.
The promotions also indicate the water companies are no longer staid organizations, Gibson said. “They’ve entered the competitive market place and you have to compete for talent.”