South Carolina

DHEC board picks ex-Duke Energy exec

Catherine Heigel
Catherine Heigel Provided photo

A former Duke Energy executive was chosen Friday as the next leader of South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The department’s governing board voted unanimously to select Catherine Heigel, who was president of the utility’s South Carolina operations from March 2010 to June 2012. She is now an attorney with Elliot Davis Decosimo in Greenville, where she’s been since August 2013.

Heigel is a board member of the Original Six Foundation, Gov. Nikki Haley’s nonprofit organization, and a former trustee of South Carolina’s chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

The vote comes two months after Haley picked longtime friend Eleanor Kitzman to head the agency. Kitzman withdrew amid tough questioning from senators concerning her relationship with Haley and how she got the job, particularly because she lacked experience in either health care or environmental matters. The Senate must confirm the nominee.

Kitzman, former director of the state’s Insurance Department, was the only candidate for the job after Haley gave her name to the board’s chairman. Haley appoints the entire board.

The board took applications after Kitzman withdrew. Board Chairman Allen Amsler said Heigel was chosen from among 99 people who applied during a nationwide search. The agency did not release the names of the other finalists.

“With her strong background and leadership skills, we are confident in Heigel’s ability to successfully continue the board’s vision and propel the agency forward,” Amsler said in a news release. “Heigel’s expertise and knowledge in law and management will serve as valuable assets.”

The board is recommending a salary of nearly $155,000.

Heigel began working as an attorney for Duke Energy Corp. in 1997 and rose to become a special adviser to the chairman in February 2010. After leaving Duke Energy, she worked as a lawyer and executive vice president of American Transmission Co., a Wisconsin-based electric utility, according to her resume.

She received her bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of South Carolina and a law degree from Ohio State University.

Heigel gave $1,000 in August 2013 to Haley’s re-election campaign. But in the 2010 race, she backed Haley’s opponent, giving $1,000 to Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, according to campaign filings with the state Ethics Commission.

Former DHEC Director Catherine Templeton announced her resignation in January.

Templeton was a lawyer in Mount Pleasant when Haley made her one of her first Cabinet selections as director of the state’s Labor and Licensing Department. The Senate confirmed her as DHEC’s leader in 2012 despite criticism about her lack of experience in the health and environmental fields. When she left DHEC, her salary was $162,600.

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