Powered up: Fisackerly brings energy, vision to public utility leadership

Haley Fisackerly credits valuable lessons learned during his days as a business major at Mississippi State University and hard work for the success he’s found leading Mississippi’s largest public utility.

Fisackerly serves as president and chief executive officer of Entergy Mississippi, Inc., an electric utility that serves more than 441,000 customers in 45 counties in Mississippi. He was named president and CEO in June 2008.

The Columbus native graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from MSU. Fisackerly earned a master’s degree in public policy administration with an emphasis in executive, legislative and regulatory management from George Washington University.

“While I may not have envisioned becoming the CEO of the largest utility in Mississippi during my years at MSU, I graduated believing that anything was possible,” Fisackerly said. “The education and experience I gained in and outside of the classroom at MSU helped me ‘find my place in the world,’ if you will. I earned a quality education from the outstanding faculty who aimed to prepare students for the real world. I also gained a great deal from the many organizations and activities I participated in outside the classroom.

“These extracurricular activities offered me exposure to leadership roles and interaction with people from many different walks of life,” he said. “My undergraduate years at MSU made a big difference in my life. My eyes and mind were opened to a new world and I made many lifelong friendships that are still major influences today.”

Before joining Entergy, Fisackerly served for several years on the staff of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, where he managed Cochran’s Washington office. He also assisted the senator with economic development projects in Mississippi as well as legislative matters related to energy policy, the environment and interior appropriations. Fisackerly left Sen. Cochran’s office in 1995 to join Entergy’s Washington, D.C. office. In 1999, he moved to Little Rock, Ark., where he was director of system regulatory strategy. He returned to Mississippi in June 2002.

Prior to his current role, he spent one year at Entergy Nuclear as the vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs. From 2002 to 2007, he served as Entergy Mississippi’s vice president of customer operations. In this role, Fisackerly created the customer operations organization by combining economic development, customer service and commercial and industrial accounts functions. He also led initiatives to improve customer satisfaction and raise Entergy Mississippi’s visibility in the community.

Tested and challenged in 2005, Fisackerly was a key member of the company’s leadership team during the Hurricane Katrina restoration effort. It was a task that required exceptional organizational and outreach skills––skills he had honed at MSU.

“My first job out of college was working for the MSU Alumni Association. Steve Grafton and John Correro hired me to be a field representative,” Fisackerly said. “I was responsible for helping organize alumni chapters in Mississippi and across the U.S. Through that job, I saw the importance of supporting our alma mater. There are so many ways one can support MSU––from organizing alumni gatherings to student recruitment and financial stewardship to advocating for issues and policies important to the university.”

“While on Sen. Cochran’s staff, I immediately became involved with the MSU Alumni Association and eventually became chapter president. That is where I got to know my good friends Rhonda and Mark Keenum,” Fisackerly said. “Mark and I were always looking out for MSU and we worked with people like Dr. (Don) Zacharias, Dr. (Louis) Wise and Dr. (Rodney) Foil to win research funding and on various federal policies important to MSU. I also worked with Dr. Marty Wiseman to help MSU students find internships in D.C. and host programs for MSU students to learn about Congress and how our federal government works.”

Today, Fisackerly’s love for MSU is expressed through his service on the board of directors of the MSU Foundation and Bully Bloc, a stand-alone political action committee not connected to the university but comprised of MSU alumni and friends that has three primary objectives: 1) Organize supporters behind policies important to MSU. Basically, a vehicle for getting supporters politically active; 2) Raise money to provide financial support to MSU alumni and friends seeking public office in Mississippi, and; 3) Create and support opportunities to educate MSU students on the political process and encourage them to consider careers in public service.

Fisackerly serves on numerous statewide and Jackson-area boards, including but not limited to the Mississippi Museum of Art, Mississippi Works, Mississippi Energy Institute, Mississippi State University Foundation Board of Directors, The Nature Conservancy––Mississippi Chapter Board of Trustees, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, BankFirst Financial Services Board of Directors and the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions.

He is also currently serving as board chairman of the USA International Ballet Competition and is the past chair of the Mississippi Economic Council. Fisackerly also serves on the steering committee for the Mississippi History Museum and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
Fisackerly’s relationship with MSU President Mark E. Keenum is one he obviously cherishes.

“I consider both Mark and Rhonda very dear friends,” he said. “Mark and I were on Sen. Cochran’s staff and I saw firsthand Mark’s unique ability to work with people and build consensus on many different issues, a trait that is serving him well in his current role. He is very intelligent and well-versed in agriculture and economics and it really showed on Capitol Hill. By the time the 1990 Farm Bill came around, Mark was already recognized for his knowledge and expertise and it served Sen. Cochran and farmers in Mississippi well.

“We also had some great away-from-work times. We had a group of guys, including Kyle Steward and John Lundy who would get out of the city on weekends for golf outings. Mark is an exceptional golfer and even better at winning the golf bets,” Fisackerly said. “I also remember many MSU alumni social gatherings in D.C. where Mark would cook up some outstanding Mississippi catfish.

“Mark has put MSU on a track for great success. He is a Bulldog down to the core and has a great understanding of both what alumni want to see our university become and what we are capable of doing,” he said. “We have seen Mark set ambitious goals for student enrollment, funding, staffing and facilities and he has not only met them, he has exceeded them. I know Mark has bigger plans to not only build MSU’s national standing, but our standing in the world.”

Fisackerly and his wife, Allison and their sons are frequents visitors to the Starkville campus.

“Allison and our boys enjoy visiting campus for ball games and since my parents live in Columbus, it is hard not to make a detour through campus so the boys can see just how beautiful a place it is,” he said.

From his vantage point, Fisackerly sees changes on the horizon for the energy industry: “The electric utility industry is going through monumental changes. Costs of the business are escalating due to aging infrastructure, federal regulations, compliance, and technology and shifting customer demands. That means regulated electric utilities like Entergy are working hard to meet these demands, but in many cases we are entering unchartered waters. It is going to require exceptional employees who can innovate and come up with new ideas to meet our customer’s needs.

“The fact that MSU is focused on research and applying that research in the classroom is allowing them to produce graduates who are innovative and open to new ideas. That is what all businesses need to be successful. Technology is changing our world rapidly and we have to change with it––and in many cases, ahead of it. MSU is producing graduates who fit that bill and is a great example of what a research university does,” Fisackerly said.

But keeping his priorities in order as those changes evolve is something the energy executive credits to what he learned at his alma mater.

“Today, like so many others, I am helping raise a family, running a business and staying involved in my community… in many ways my daily life reminds me of the full schedule I kept at MSU,” said Fisackerly. “The life skills I learned there––balance, manage and focus––have served me well throughout my career.

By Sid Salter, Photography by Russ Houston