A farewell from Aera’s president and CEO, Christina Sistrunk
Late last year, when I made my decision to retire, I looked forward to a future with more time for family, friends and travel.
What I didn’t foresee were the extraordinary events of 2020: the nationwide protests over racial injustice, the arrival of COVID-19, the collapse of oil prices and, more recently, California’s energy blackouts.
Working in abnormal times to find ways to do normal things — like a smooth CEO transition – has made my last few months at Aera seem more like a sprint at the end of the 40-year marathon of my career.
Yet, with just two weeks to go before I leave Aera, it’s a bittersweet time for me.
I’m remembering the many people who made these last five years the highlight of my career. The reception my husband, John, and I received when we first arrived in Bakersfield was exceptional. Having spent most of my career and adult life in the southern U.S., which is revered for its hospitality, I didn’t expect to be so warmly welcomed and embraced by California.
A salute to Aera’s employees
I’m also thinking of Aera’s remarkable employees. I am filled with pride and gratitude for them and the work they do every day to supply California with safe, reliable, affordable energy. On top of that, they genuinely give of themselves to the communities where we operate.
I have never worked for a company whose employees are just as passionate about their work as they are about the communities where we operate. Among the many ways they contribute, these hard-working employees serve as student mentors, help raise school supplies each fall and volunteer with local food banks to feed those in need. They participate on the boards and committees of organizations that strengthen our communities.
Through employee efforts, for example, Aera last year installed a new roof for the Bakersfield headquarters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County but paid to mount energy-generating solar panels on that roof. As a result, that important nonprofit will save an estimated $60,000 a year in utility costs – money it’s now using to invest in its youth-serving mission.
I’ll forever think about what Aera’s employees have achieved, both at work and in the community. It has been an honor to work with them.
Aera’s new leader
“I’ll forever think about what Aera’s employees have achieved, both at work and in the community.”
I leave also feeling pleased that Aera will be in the very capable hands of Erik Bartsch. I’m very excited about what he brings to the role of Aera’s CEO. He is originally from California, where most of his family still lives. He is excited to return to where he grew up and strongly committed to doing the right thing for California.
Erik and I have worked closely together over these last several months, discussing Aera, its culture and the communities where we operate. We’ve talked about the future of California’s oil and gas industry. Coming from a senior leadership team at Shell, Erik has thought a great deal about the energy transition. He has thought about the role of oil and gas in confronting and solving the issues of responsible energy production and its environmental footprint. Erik has a high level of passion and insight to help California create solutions that will not only help Aera but California. He’s definitely up for the challenge.
The work for California’s energy future
I leave feeling proud of Aera’s reputation and abilities. Yet it’s clear there’s still more work to do to meet California’s energy goals and needs. Increasing pressure on the power grid and rotating energy blackouts should not happen in the world’s fifth largest economy. Californians expect reliable energy for healthy businesses and quality of life.
It’s going to take innovating, multiple pathways and listening on all sides to find viable solutions for California’s energy future. Aera and the oil and gas industry have demonstrated that we have the skills and capabilities to help find ways to deliver energy to California in new and better ways. We are willing to sit at the table to help address and achieve the carbon goals of the state. We are committed to helping tackle the challenges that California faces.
I don’t know what the next chapter of my life holds. But I’ll be watching from a distance to see how California’s energy future progresses. I have no doubt that Aera and the oil and gas industry will continue to be vital parts of California’s energy system for a long time to come.
It has been a great privilege to lead a company that truly cares about providing energy for California and prosperity for its people. Thank you for five incredible years as Aera’s president and CEO.