After four years at the helm of Colorado Springs Utilities, CEO Aram Benyamin is leaving but won’t say where he’s going.
Benyamin was named CEO to succeed Jerry Forte on Oct. 1, 2018.
During Benyamin’s tenure, Utilities “put into place a robust Integrated Resource Plan, preparing the growing city for decades to come,” Utilities said in a release.
“Conservation efforts have improved the city’s resiliency in the face of prolonged drought and the Colorado River crisis,” the release said.
But Utilities has run into some headwinds in recent weeks when officials first said the city had adequate water to serve the Amara development, a 3,200-acre subdivision La Plata Communities is seeking to have annexed into the city via a flagpole annexation. It’s surrounded on three sides by city of Fountain. Within days of those statements, Utilities proposed an ordinance requiring the city to amass 130 percent of the water required of its customers and change annexation requirements, which would disqualify Amara from city water.
Benyamin also oversaw the discontinuance of the use of coal at the Drake Power Plant Downtown, and pushed the city toward renewables. Drake ceased operations in August 2022.
Utilities’ release also hailed Benyamin for an “innovative agreement” with Ting internet that will create a citywide fiber network. However, other internet providers have already started installing fiber networks, and while Utilities claims that much of the $600 million cost of the Ting network will be paid by lease fees paid by Ting, some say it’s not guaranteed that the fiber vendor will generate adequate revenue to fund the project.
Benyamin came to Colorado Springs after 30 years with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where he ran into controversy.
“Serving this beautiful city alongside nearly 2,000 dedicated employees has been a true honor,” Benyamin said in the release. “As I take the next step in my professional journey, I will take with me the innovative spirit, community commitment and collaborative environment I have witnessed here at Colorado Springs Utilities.”
While Mayor John Suthers, by city charter, has no role to play in Utilities — it’s under control of City Council which serves as Utilities Board — Suthers said in the release, “As Mayor, I have enjoyed a strong working partnership with Aram over the last four years, and I credit him with taking some vital steps in modernizing Colorado Springs Utilities. “Aram’s forward-looking approach has helped put Colorado Springs in a favorable position to navigate growth, changes in the regulatory and environmental environments, and advancing technology.”
Utilities Board Chair Wayne Williams, who received a $2,500 contribution from Benyamin for his 2023 mayoral campaign, said in the release it had been “an absolute pleasure” working with him and called him “a visionary leader and an individual who always put the city and its residents first.”
Benyamin announced his departure to the Utilities Board on Nov. 7, and The Gazette was the first to report it.
Chief Operations Officer Travas Deal will assume interim CEO responsibilities, the release said.