Meet Duke Energy’s New District Manager
Pam Hardy has wanted this role for 20 years. It’s not often District Manager positions that are open within Duke Energy; people who take on these roles tend to stick around for decades. So, for most of her career, Hardy held roles and projects that would build her experience to prepare her for today.
“One of the things I believe in strongly is to prepare for opportunities,” she said. “And when I decided that I wanted to do this, and I knew an opportunity wasn’t coming anytime soon, I tried to do roles that would prepare me for it.”
As the Wilmington Area Government and Community Relations Manager, Hardy oversees Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, Pender and Sampson counties.
She joined the Wilmington team in October as a new face after spending 30 years in Raleigh. Along with her husband and two daughters, Hardy moved to Wilmington in the fall and is settling into the new gig, building new relationships along the way. She had visited Wilmington for annual family reunions for the past 10 years and is still getting to know all the area has to offer.
Originally from Chicago, Hardy came to North Carolina in 1991 to attend Shaw University, where she studied mass communications.
“I thrive when I interact with people and naturally connect with them,” Hardy said. “My first goal is to understand what I have in common with someone… What motivates this person and how will we support each other?”
His first role in 1996 was that of a customer service specialist – working on the phone before handling complaints. During her time working in consumer affairs, she handled nearly 20,000 complaints, working with networks of internal team leaders to find solutions.
“That role was very foundational to all the other roles,” she said. “It taught me how to communicate with people. It taught me how to communicate with external customers, problem solve, embrace continuous learning and growth. So I always yell at our customer service specialists because they just hold a special part of my heart. This is where I acquired all the skills that have brought me to where I am today.
Most recently, Hardy worked in corporate communications supporting Duke Energy’s customer services organization. She is still getting to know the local political landscape, but eventually she plans to get to know all the senior officials as part of her government relations duties.
“If you hear names over and over again, take that back,” she said. “It’s really a bit like campaigning.”
Recently, while reaching out to someone, they asked, “’So, what do you want?’ “, did she say. “I said, ‘I just wanted to come talk to you, let you see me, see me, make sure you have my contact details, just in case. Because you never know what’s going to happen in this town and you don’t want to contact them once it happens.
In January, the state faced three winter storms, leaving tens of thousands of homes without power. For the most part, the Wilmington area was spared, although Duke Energy has a workforce in place and is ready to respond to large-scale outages.
“We focus on preparation all year round,” Hardy said. “So I think those three storms were just a preparation for what could happen.”
Hardy prioritizes getting the right information out to the public and emergency management partners to ensure their respective communities are better prepared for what lies ahead. “I really focus on the end game and that’s making sure we’re prepared, we’re ready to go, we’re watching for storm systems or weather systems and we’re ready to serve customers, so we’re prepared. We’re not going to stop until every customer is back.”
As the state’s largest electric utility company, Duke Energy is modernizing its grid and reorienting itself to meet new clean energy goals. Last year, Governor Roy Cooper ordered the NC Utilities Commission to act to reduce carbon emissions by 70% below 2005 levels by 2030. This change involves major cooperation and coordination to divest from coal-fired power plants and explore new clean energy alternatives, including wind. The company is interested in the Wilmington East wind farm, which will be auctioned by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in May.
Duke Energy has several rounds of formal stakeholder meetings that began Jan. 25 to consider alternative energy paths ahead. “Feedback from our stakeholders will help guide decisions about investments in future generation, including wind potential,” Hardy said. “We are considering all resources.”
Affordability and reliability of service will be a priority in Duke Energy’s mission to reduce carbon emissions, she said.
In addition to government officials, Hardy also gets to know local philanthropic and business leaders through the Duke Energy Foundation’s grantmaking efforts. The grants are designed to support “building vibrant economies; customer resilience; and justice, equity and inclusion,” she said.
Hardy has always been drawn to community relations and is co-chair of the community service committee of her Sigma Gamma Rho sorority. Crediting the internal and external mentors who have helped her along her journey, Hardy also provides advice for women looking to advance their careers. “It’s just something I do. I love doing it,” she said. “I get immense satisfaction from helping other people, guiding other people, guiding other people, especially girls and women, on how to achieve your goals.”