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Morris to lead Avista in 2008

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Morris (The Spokesman-Review)

Avista Corp. said Scott Morris will take over as chairman of the board and chief executive officer at the beginning of 2008.

Morris, 49, is now president and chief operating officer overseeing the company’s regulated utility providing electricity and natural gas in Spokane and North Idaho.

His new role is part of a succession plan in the wake of Gary Ely’s retirement as chairman and CEO at the end of the year.

Ely began his Avista career 40 years ago and is credited with providing steady, smart leadership of the company in the aftermath of the electricity crisis of 2000-2001.

He said he is looking forward to fulfilling personal goals including service to the community and his church.

In a press release, Ely said he is confident of Morris’ readiness to head one of Spokane’s leading companies.

Though Avista is still recovering from the crisis, its stock is climbing in value and dividends have risen.

The company hired Morris in 1981. He has worked on customer and operations projects that the company said were important to improved reliability and service.

Morris had worked as general manager for Avista’s utility operations in Oregon and California from 1991 to 2000. He was then appointed president of the utility.

In 2002 Morris was named senior vice president of the corporation. The chief operating officer responsibilities were added last year.

•Meanwhile, Avista declared a 14.5 cent dividend per common share on Friday.

The fourth quarter dividends are payable March 15 to those who are shareholders as of Feb. 23.

The company’s board of directors met this week and also announced a quarterly dividend of $1.74 for each preferred Series K stock.

The company is scheduled to announce year-end results for 2006 on Wednesday.