Cuomo nominates First Niagara CEO to head NYPA

By THOMAS ADAMS - 5/1/2012 2:48:05 PM

John Koelmel, president and CEO of First Niagara Financial Group Inc., is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s choice to replace Perinton attorney Michael Townsend as chairman of the New York Power Authority.

Cuomo on Tuesday nominated Koelmel to serve on the power authority’s board of trustees, and also recommended him as chairman.

“With decades of experience in key leadership and management positions with major private-sector organizations, John Koelmel has the expertise needed to be a strong and effective voice on the NYPA board,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Koelmel would replace Townsend, a partner at the Perinton offices of Harris Beach PLLC. The nomination requires confirmation by the state Senate.

Townsend joined the board in 2004 and has been chairman since 2009.

Wayne LeChase, chairman of LeChase Construction Services LLC in Rochester, joined the board in June 2011.

NYPA is the largest state power organization in the country, with 17 generating facilities and 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines.

Koelmel has been First Niagara’s president and CEO since 2006, after joining the Buffalo-based bank in 2004 as executive vice president and chief financial officer.

First Niagara is scheduled to close May 18 on the acquisition of 195 HSBC Bank USA N.A. retail branches, most of which are in Upstate New York.

“For New York State to come back stronger than ever, and to rebuild a vibrant and sustainable economy, we need affordable, clean power,” Koelmel said in the statement.

“I look forward to working together with the NYPA board of trustees, the authority’s senior leadership and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ensure the state’s businesses—which are our engines for economic growth—have the power they need to invest, grow and create jobs.”

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