As the Long Island Power Authority prepares to enter the new year with its chief executive role vacant, Jon Kaiman, a state official from Great Neck who has long been considered a contender for the job, on Friday acknowledged he’s had some “conversations” about it.
Several LIPA board members say they have met informally with Kaiman, the former Democratic supervisor of North Hempstead and the current chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, over the past several weeks. One board member said he would be inclined to support Kaiman.
“I understand it’s a board decision,” Kaiman said in an interview, referring to the need for LIPA trustee approval of the CEO candidate. “I’ve engaged in some conversations about it. I’m keeping all options open and seeing how conversations go in the weeks ahead.”
The LIPA chief executive slot has been vacant since former chief John McMahon, a former Con Edison executive, left in August. The LIPA board’s personnel committee had previously identified a candidate from a West Coast public utility, but that unidentified person took another job at the last minute, officials said.
Newsday has previously reported candidates for the job included LIPA board members Mark Fischl and Matthew Cordaro, LIPA chief of staff Tom Falcone and Julia Bovey, director of the Long Island Department of Public Service office.
Tom McAteer, chairman of the LIPA board’s personnel committee, declined to discuss search efforts other than to say they are ongoing. But a source said Kaiman’s candidacy came up informally at a board meeting Wednesday. LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan, who previously worked for Kaiman in North Hempstead, also declined to comment.
The board’s personnel committee has Kaiman’s resume, which is said to highlight his governmental roles as the top executive at North Hempstead, the nation’s fifth-largest town, and special adviser on superstorm Sandy relief to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as well as his NIFA role. He also served two years as a judge for the Nassau District Court. He received degrees from Hofstra University and Hofstra Law School.
Kaiman had been considered a candidate for the top LIPA job in 2013, after LIPA underwent a succession of top executives after superstorm Sandy and the state passed the LIPA Reform Act. McMahon, a Con Ed retiree, brought utility experience to the post when LIPA was under sharp criticism after Sandy.
Consideration of Kaiman as a candidate for the job reopens the debate about whether LIPA is best served by an executive with utility or governmental experience. Kaiman is said to have made the case that he is the right candidate if the board decides to opt for the latter, especially because of his experience with storm response, local tax and zoning issues and municipal debt.
Word of Kaiman as a CEO candidate began to swirl in November, when he appeared on a renewable energy panel at the Vision Long Island conference. He’s said to be an advocate of the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative to transform state grids with distributed, green-energy, market alternatives to old plants and costly transmission upgrades.
While the LIPA board will vote yes or no on Kaiman if he emerges as the candidate, he also would need the backing of Cuomo and top members of his administration, including state energy czar Richard Kauffman. All past LIPA chief executives have been approved by governors.