Personality profile – Ruth Durkee
She joined Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) 20 years ago, initially in the customer service area and then moving to the law department to negotiate lawsuits about personal injuries that involved FPL’s facilities. Durkee makes the point that, in such a litigious society, a good deal of time and expertise is taken up in negotiating settlements of injuries resulting from tripping over manhole covers or guide wires, or from contacts with energised distribution or transmission conductors. Her area of responsibility also included FPL’s company vehicle fleet, as well as the resolution of demands for damages to customer equipment resulting from voltage fluctuations or errors and omissions. In 1989 Durkee accepted the position of revenue protection co-ordinator, standardising the practices and procedures for revenue protection investigations. Florida Power & Light went through a major restructuring in 1991, and at that stage she was appointed corporate manager of revenue protection, responsible for a service area encompassing 28 000 square miles and servicing a population of some 10 million, with 3.6 million meters.
The revenue protection organisation at FPL has a staff of 49, including investigators, metering experts, prosecution specialists and administrative and support staff. The department manages the entire matter of revenue protection identification, investigation, billing, collection and civil, criminal and administrative litigation. In six years the organisation has moved from a manually intensive process to an almost paperless automated process that is suited to the 21st century. These changes have brought efficiencies and improvements. Recoveries exceed $6.5 million annually, an increase of over 100% from 1990.
Durkee became involved with the IURPA in 1989. At that stage the association was made up of a network of individuals from the United States and the United Kingdom, who got together to share ideas of how to address the challenges of the growing problem of theft of service. Today the IURPA represents member utilities from as far afield as Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, South Africa and the South Pacific, as well as the UK and US, and has over 2 000 members.
When Durkee’s term as president is up, she will move to the position of director, where she will join the other former IURPA presidents who have been instrumental in building a strong, effective association. She believes that there is plenty of change ahead, with new technologies altering the way utilities function today. The challenge is to promote programmes that will succeed in a deregulated, privatised and competitive environment, and she believes IURPA will be in the forefront of such development. Durkee is convinced that the impact of revenue protection programmes can positively alter the financial standing of the companies that introduce them, and feels that the IURPA has begun to demonstrate the strength and value that will take it through to the 21st century.
Durkee is married, with a young son. She is a member of the long range planning committee for the village of Pinecrest in Miami. This committee drafts proposals and makes recommendations for future development and land use within the area. She serves on the board of the Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation, the objective of which is to attract funding to make treatment available for all children, regardless of their economic standing. Durkee is also on the board of directors for deaf services of Greater Miami, and a member of the Leadership Circle of the United Way, a national organisation that seeks tax deductible donations to support services needed in the community by the economically challenged. In Dade County (a small geographic region of South Florida) United Way raised over $20 million last year to help people of all ages. She is also a mentor and a tutor at her son’s elementary school.