Mark Kempic sees a lot of symmetry between his professional and civic lives.
As president of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania and Columbia Gas of Maryland since 2012, he leads two utilities with a constant eye toward safety. In his new role as chairman of the board at the American Red Cross of Southwestern Pennsylvania, he will guide an organization devoted to caring for people in emergencies.
“It’s a good overlay of our missions,” said Kempic, 54, of Squirrel Hill, noting the Red Cross’ focus on preventing human suffering.
“We as a public utility teach people to be prepared, to be safe,” he said.
The safety mission at Columbia Gas — a subsidiary of Indiana-based NiSource with offices in Cecil — is intertwined with the massive regulatory framework that governs its operation and has been a focus of much of Kempic’s career.
His work at Columbia Gas began before he even graduated from Laurel Highlands High School in Uniontown, when he started working as a part-time dispatcher. After getting an associate degree from Penn State University and a bachelor’s degree in computer and information science from the University of Pittsburgh, he worked in various technical and analytical roles for the utility. The attention paid to complying with regulations prompted him to attend law school, and he received a law degree from Capital University in 1991.
“Since we’re such a heavily regulated company, it made sense,” Kempic said.
He worked as an energy and regulatory lawyer until returning to Columbia Gas as an attorney. Before being named president of the utilities, he was director of rates and regulatory policy.
“I’ve had the opportunity to move through a lot of different roles,” he said.
During Kempic’s time as president, the utilities that serve a combined 450,000 customers have undertaken an effort to replace about 2,400 miles of older gas pipelines.
“A big part of my job is making sure construction goes smoothly, that we have the adequate personnel and revenue,” Kempic said.
He enjoys the job so much that he considers the work his hobby, though his civic engagement extends beyond the Red Cross. He also serves on the boards of the Animal Rescue League and the United Way of Washington County.
Such service, he said, is “consistent with my personal beliefs as well as the company’s business beliefs.”
— David Conti