Chris Womack, SPA/MPA ’85, says graduating from American University was one of the happiest days of his life. He attended graduate school at AU while working on Capitol Hill. “The classwork was always something that excited me,” he says. “It was a good outlet, a good foundation to do my job better.”
That job is now chairman, president, and CEO of electric utility Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, a $70 billion energy company. Womack previously served in several leadership positions at the company and its affiliates, so the transition represented a return for Womack. And, as he arrived, GP—along with the rest of the world—was just beginning to realize the impacts of a global pandemic. At the same time, the country was in the midst of a social justice movement and an intense political season.
The work, he says, was and is intense, but Womack has several guiding principles and says he’s motivated by the idea of bringing people together and being responsible to others. “I believe we are blessed with the opportunity to walk this place—this earth—for a few minutes, and a measure of our success is how we benefit others,” he says. “I try to find ways—in whatever time I have—to give a little bit back, to try to make a difference and help somebody else out.”
Womack says his team works every day to find new energy solutions and build a sustainable future. Through smart investments into the grid, the generation portfolio, employees, and local communities, Georgia Power is investing in a better future for the state. Georgia Power will soon bring online the first new nuclear power units in the U.S. in decades to provide reliable, carbon-free energy as part of parent company Southern Company’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. “We are looking at all parts of our business to see how we can be more environmentally friendly,” Womack says.
Under Womack’s leadership, the company also will invest $87 million over five years to advance racial equity and social justice efforts. The funding supports education, criminal justice reform, energy equity, and economic empowerment. “I think it’s important to bring people together no matter our differences,” he says. “Facilitating an environment that allows people to speak freely—to speak up—puts us in a position to figure out what we have to do to be better.”
Womack says his sense of responsibility to others comes from his South Alabama upbringing. “Seeing a lot of things not done right,” had a remarkable impact on him, he says. “I saw how things were not handled or could have been handled better.” Now, he says, he uses his own position and influence to do better—and that includes bettering the world in as many ways as possible. “Our time goes by very, very quickly. I firmly believe that we have a lot to do, a lot to get in. I try to do it all and get it all in.”