Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council


Richard J. Mark

Chairman/President, Ameren Illinois Company

Richard J. Mark is chairman and president of Ameren Illinois Company. He is responsible for electric and natural gas distribution to more than 1.2 million electric and 806,000 natural gas customers across three-quarters of the state of Illinois. Ameren Illinois’ complex delivery system includes approximately 4,500 miles of electric transmission lines, 45,700 miles of distribution lines, 18,000 miles of natural gas transmission and distribution mains and 12 underground natural gas storage fields. Ameren Illinois is a subsidiary of Ameren Corporation which is ranked 373rd of the Fortune 500 companies. Before his appointment as president, Mark was senior vice president of Ameren Missouri Customer Operations and was responsible for electric and gas distribution to more than 1.2 million customers across central and eastern Missouri including the greater St. Louis area. Mark also oversaw Customer Services Operations, Community Relations, Communications, Customer Satisfaction and Corporate Giving for Missouri’s largest utility. Mark joined Ameren in 2002 as vice president of Customer Service. In 2003, he became vice president of Governmental Policy and Consumer Affairs. In just two short years, he rose to the position of senior vice president of Ameren Missouri Energy Delivery – becoming the first African American to hold this position. In 2009, Mark was promoted to senior vice president of Customer Operations – a position that encompasses Ameren Missouri’s Energy Delivery but was expanded to meet customers’ energy needs of the future.To ensure a secure energy future for Ameren customers, Mark is leading a Strategic Customer Initiative focused on promoting energy efficiency, smart grid technologies and customer-based energy generation, or distributed generation. His team’s goals are to deploy advanced technologies, tools and services to enable customers to manage their energy usage and costs while enhancing the electric grid. Prior to joining Ameren, Mark spent six years as president and chief executive officer of St. Mary’s Hospital in East St. Louis and five years as chief operating officer. Mark also served 10 years as chairman of the East St. Louis District 189 Financial Oversight Panel. Mark serves on a variety of boards and organizations including Enterprise Bank and Trust, Madison Mutual Insurance, Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, and the St. Louis Police Foundation. He has received three honorary doctorate degrees for his civic and community work, as well as numerous awards and honors; most recently Mark was recognized by Savoy magazine in its 2014 spring issue as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America. In 2012, Black Enterprise magazine named him one of the 100 Most Powerful Executives in America. His other honors include the NAACP’s Inspiring St. Louisan Award of 2011, St. Louis Business Journal’s Ten Years of Influence of 2010, St. Louis Business Journal’s Most Influential Energy Executive of 2010 and many more.

Craig Blanchette

President, Aqua America Illinois

Craig Blanchette was named president of Aqua America’s Illinois subsidiary in July 2014 following his previous position as vice president of operations, which he held since 2011, Blanchette joined Aqua Illinois(Aqua) in 2008 as vice president and regional manager of Illinois for Kankakee and Will County Divisions.

Blanchette has more than 20 years of water and wastewater industry management experience, including more than 12 years with Aqua. He is responsible for executive oversight of the development, management and operations for the water and the wastewater functions, which include the delivery of public drinking water; wastewater collection and treatment; engineering, maintenance and construction; ensuring regulatory and environmental compliance; and public health and safety related to the company’s operations. He is also responsible for driving the organization’s operations to satisfy its various stakeholders.

Prior to joining Aqua, Blanchette served as Village Administrator, Superintendent of public works, and water and wastewater operator for the village of Manteno, Illinois. He was responsible for the overall management and operations of the various departments within the village of Manteno, including public works, parks, water and wastewater, general government, and building and zoning.

Blanchette earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration and a Master of Business Administration from Oliver Nazarene University. He is a member of the American Water Works Association, Water Environment Federation, past Chairman of the Illinois Section NAWC Chapter, and serves on various local boards and charitable organizations.

Justin Ladner

President, Illinois American Water

Justin Ladner is president of Illinois American Water, the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing water and/or wastewater services to approximately 1.3 million people.  In this role, Ladner reinforces and strengthens customer, regulatory and local government relationships, drives operational and financial results and is the principal external contact for American Water in Illinois.

Prior to his current role, Ladner joined American Water in November. 2018 as director of National Regulatory Affairs. In this national role for American Water, Ladnerwas responsible for developing and implementing strategies, practices, and processes related to National Regulatory Affairs. He also served as the primary liaison between our business units and our state Regulatory Affairs teams, providing leadership and strategy to identify, develop, and implement best practices to ensure functional excellence. He has also worked closely to enhance our presence as an industry leader at National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) events.

Before joining American Water, Ladner served as the governmental affairs and policy manager for Southern Power. In that role, he created and led the government affairs team with a focus on federal, regional, and state legislative and regulatory affairs. He also held several other positions at Southern Co., including project manager for the Integration Management Office, assistant to the executive vice president of Nuclear Development, and attorney for Southern Nuclear.

Prior to joining Southern Co., Ladner was an associate attorney for Huie, Fernambucq& Stewart in Birmingham, Ala. He also worked for U.S. Steel as a metallurgical engineer. Ladner received his law degree, cum laude, from the University of Alabama School of Law, as well as a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering with honors from the University of Alabama.

John O. Hudson III

President/CEO, Nicor Gas

John O. Hudson III is a licensed attorney who serves as president and chief executive officer of Nicor Gas, the largest natural gas distribution company in Illinois. In this role, he is responsible for ensuring that natural gas – a clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy source – reaches more than 2.2 million homes and businesses in 656 northern Illinois communities. In addition, Hudson serves as executive vice president of Southern Company Gas, where he has enterprise-wide responsibility for market strategy and new venture development across the company’s regulated utility franchises in Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee and Virginia. Hudson also is a member of the Southern Company Gas Management Council. Southern Company Gas is a subsidiary of Southern Company and the parent company of Nicor Gas.

Before assuming his current role, Hudson served as executive vice president and chief external and public affairs officer at Southern Company Gas. In this role, he was responsible for the company’s external affairs, customer operations, corporate communications, marketing, community relations, economic development and environmental affairs functions. In addition, he served as president of the Southern Company Gas Foundation, which focuses on philanthropic and volunteer initiatives. Through previous leadership roles at Alabama Power, a sister company of Southern Company Gas, Hudson served as senior vice president of marketing and business development, chief executive of the Alabama Power Foundation, vice president of public relations and charitable giving, assistant to the company’s president and CEO and area manager for the Birmingham division.

After spending more than a decade at Alabama Power, Hudson left the company in 2006 to serve as senior vice president of corporate diversity and public affairs at Regions Financial Corporation. He also founded The Hudson Group, a public policy consulting firm, where he practiced law and served as president and chairman. He returned to Alabama Power in 2010.

As part of his long-term commitment to entrepreneurship and philanthropy, Hudson serves as chairman of the board of directors of Bronze Valley Corporation, which he launched to expand the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem among people of color in the technology industry. For his work in the area of philanthropy, innovation and entrepreneurship, he was selected for the prestigious Aspen Institute Ascend Fellowship. He also is a member of the board of directors of Trillion Communications, a national supply-chain company that provides logistics services to the telecommunications industry; A.G. Gaston Enterprises, a privately held investment company with holdings in construction, real estate and media; and Metallum Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on funding early-stage technology startups.

Hudson received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Alabama A&M University and is a cum laude graduate of Miles College School of Law. He also completed the Executive Accounting and Finance Program at Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and the Young American Leaders Program at Harvard Business School.

Hudson resides in Chicago with his wife.

Charles Matthews

President, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas

Charles Matthews is president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. Matthews oversees the daily operational and administrative activities of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas – regulated natural gas utilities serving residential, commercial and industrial customers in the city of Chicago and many of its northern suburbs. Peoples Gas has 1,300 employees and serves approximately 828,000 customers in the city of Chicago. North Shore Gas has 170 employees and serves approximately 160,000 customers in 54 communities within the northern suburbs of Chicago. Previously, Matthews served as senior vice president – wholesale energy and fuels, customer solutions for We Energies, the largest electric and natural gas utility in Wisconsin. Appointed to that position in January 2012, Matthews led the development and implementation of market resource strategies to minimize the net cost of serving the energy needs of We Energies customers. In support of We Energies’ electric generation business, Matthews managed interactions with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), an integrated regional nonprofit entity that operates the bulk power transmission system and associated energy market. He also oversaw the annual purchase and delivery of more than 12 million tons of coal, 35 million dekatherms of natural gas and other related commodities for plant operations. In support of We Energies’ natural gas business, Matthews oversaw the purchase of an additional 120 million dekatherms of natural gas annually. Matthews also was responsible for developing generation expansion plans, long-term wholesale marketing activities, and maintaining relationships with the company’s largest commercial and industrial customers. Matthews joined the company in 2006 as vice president – wholesale energy and fuels. Previously, he was president and chief executive officer of Jamaica Public Service Co. Limited, a subsidiary of Mirant Corp., since 2001. During his 30-plus year career in the energy and utility businesses, Matthews also has been associated with Exxon, Georgia Power Co. and Southern Co. At Exxon, he managed and negotiated service contracts for production operations in the Gulf of Mexico. At Georgia Power, he held a variety of positions in regulatory affairs and finance. At Southern Co., he was director – contract administration and financial services, and also served in external affairs and wholesale energy. Matthews earned a master’s degree in finance from Atlanta University School of Business, and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama. He also completed the executive program in utility finance at the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania.Matthews previously served as a director on the boards of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee; the Next Door Foundation; Black Arts Think Tank (BATT); Three Harbors Council, Boy Scouts of America; and the American Coal Council, where he also served as board chair.