Jim Haines, a rural Lawrence resident who helped lead Westar Energy Inc. out of debt, is retiring in June as the utility's chief executive officer, the company announced Wednesday.
Haines will be replaced by William Moore, Westar's president and chief operating officer, who has worked at the company during all but two of the past 29 years.
"We are confident that the company will continue to succeed under Bill's leadership," Charles Q. Chandler IV, Westar's chairman, said in a statement. "The board also thanks Jim Haines for his great leadership and unwavering commitment to Westar's success."
Haines originally left retirement in 2002 to become CEO. At the time, Westar's stock was at $8.50 a share, the company had debt of $3.6 billion and the operation was wrapping up a year in which it would lose $793.4 million, or $11.06 cents a share.
Under Haines' leadership, Westar soon sold Protection One Inc. - a monitored-security company that later moved to Lawrence - as well as Westar's stake in ONEOK, an Oklahoma natural gas company. The moves were designed to cut debt and focus on Westar's core purpose: generating electricity.
Last year, Westar reported $164.3 million in profit, good for $1.88 per share, on revenues of $1.61 billion, up $53.1 million from a year earlier.
"We are no longer focused on solving past problems," Haines said Wednesday in a letter to employees. "Now, from a solid base, we are focused on turning tomorrow's challenges into opportunities."
Westar, which recently broke ground on a $318 million peaking plant at the Emporia Energy Center, is the state's largest electric utility, providing service to about 669,000 customers. A total of 160 of its 2,200 employees work in Lawrence.