IPL chief Murtlow leaving electric utility April 1

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. CEO Ann D. Murtlow is stepping down April 1, the electric utility announced Monday afternoon.

Murtlow, 49, was the first chief executive at IPL following its acquisition by Virginia-based AES Corp.

In a prepared statement, she said she is ready for a break after devoting herself to her career for nearly three decades.

"This is the right decision for me and my family at this time in our lives," she said in the statement. "It's time to take a break to enjoy my family and, at some point, make a thoughtful decision regarding my next professional challenge."

By late Monday afternoon, Murtlow had fielded an avalanche of questions regarding the reason for her departure, including some who asked if she or family members were ill.

No, she explained to co-workers and the media, it simply came down to priorities. She and her husband, Jim, have a daughter attending Indiana University and a son still in high school. Murtlow said she couldn’t resist “a really unique opportunity to be spending time with them.”

“The company is in great shape” she told IBJ. But, “the hard part for me, honestly, is leaving AES and IPL.”

Murtlow, one of few women in such a high post in the utility industry, came to town in 2002 at one of the most difficult times ever for the utility.

The local institution had just been acquired by Virginia-based AES, a worldwide utility conglomerate whose stock cratered soon after. IPL employees who held large portions of AES stock in their retirement portfolios, as well as elderly residents who tendered their conservative IPALCO shares for AES stock, saw their nest eggs evaporate, at least temporarily.

There were cries to investigate IPALCO board members, who at the time included now-Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Around the same time, Murtlow had to deal with electric service reliability issues raised by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Murtlow instituted a number of process improvements at IPL.

Ned Hall, chairman of IPL’s board and a regional president for AES’ North American operations, credited Murtlow for implementing an extensive emissions control program at the company’s generating facilities while keeping rates among the lowest in the region.

He said Murtlow’s replacement faces challenges including aging infrastructure that will have to be addressed in coming years.

Her interim replacement, IPL senior vice president Ken Zagzebski, previously served as vice president and chief operating officer for field operations at Xcel Energy.

At IPL since 2007, Zagzebski serves on the board of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “Ken is the guy who has the will to win,” said Hall.

Murtlow said she plans to remain involved in the numerous community boards she serves on, despite her departure from IPL and AES.

She discussed her transition to IPL in a recent edition of IBJ's video feature "Leading Questions." Watch that interview below.

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