The Prairie State officer team is responsible for ensuring we provide reliable, affordable, and clean energy to our members. Thanks to their vision, Prairie State has established itself as a forward-thinking company, and a leader in the energy industry.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Don Gaston is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC). Mr. Gaston has an extensive professional background in supercritical fossil generation, comprehensive safety programs, environmental control technology, and marked performance in improving power plant reliability throughout his more than 35 years in the electric generation industry.
Prior to joining the Prairie State team in 2014, he served as the Director of Fossil Generation for the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), one of the 10 largest electric companies in the U.S. and New Jersey’s oldest and largest publicly owned utility. In this capacity, he was accountable for the successful management of safety, environmental compliance, reliability, and financial performance of 5800 megawatts of coal fired, oil fired, and natural gas generation. Throughout his career, Gaston has also held supercritical fossil generation and environmental management positions with Southern Company and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
As President and CEO, Mr. Gaston is responsible for the overall direction and leadership of the PSEC, and oversees coordination with the Prairie State ownership group, which includes nine non-profit power companies serving 2.5 million member-owners across eight states.
Gaston earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a MBA from the University of Tennessee, and completed the TVA Executive Development Program at Vanderbilt University.
Chief Operating Officer
Randy Short is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the PSEC. Mr. Short joined Prairie State in 2014 with more than 25 years of experience in the utility industry. Prior to his current role as COO, he served as Plant Manager to the coal-fueled Baldwin Energy Complex within the Dynegy Illinois fleet. Additionally, Mr. Short led as Plant Manager at the Wood River power plant and as Senior Director for Generation Programs at Dynegy corporate headquarters in Houston.
As COO at Prairie State, Mr. Short is responsible for the direction and leadership of the power plant, mine, safety, environmental services, and procurement departments. Mr. Short is Prairie State’s first COO, and is recognized as a skilled power industry leader with unique experience working in Illinois and with Illinois coal.
Mr. Short holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Iowa State University and an MBA from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is an executive board member for the Council of Owners Construction Associates (COCA).
Vice President of Mining
David Hibbs is the Vice President of Mining for the Prairie State Generating Company (PSGC). In his role, he is responsible for the overall direction, management, and operations of the Lively Grove coal mine, the adjacent underground mine which feeds the Prairie State Energy Campus power plant. Mr. Hibbs has an extensive background in the coal mining industry, with over 30 years of mine management experience. His career spans both underground and surface mine operations, where he has led strategic planning efforts and spearheaded the construction of several new mines.
Mr. Hibbs joined the Prairie State team in July 2019. Before making the commitment to PSGC, he held the positions Manager of Business Development and Manager of the west Kentucky Business Unit for Murray Energy Corporation. Prior to this, he was Chief Operating Officer at La Luna Mining; in this role, he was responsible for design, construction, and operation of a new underground mining project in Bogota, Colombia. Past positions include President and Director of Engineering for Utah American Energy, Engineering Manager for United Coal Company, Operations Manager for Twin Ridge Development, and Vice President of Engineering for Solomon Mining Company. Prior to 2001, he held various upper management positions in mines across Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Mr. Hibbs earned a B.S. and M.S. in mining engineering from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He also holds an MBA from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is certified as a professional engineer, underground mine foreman, surface mine foreman, preparation plant foreman, advanced first aider, and electrical worker. He has been trained by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in surface and underground instruction, as well as impoundment inspection and instruction.
Vice President of Finance
Leah Bennett is the Vice President of Finance for the PSEC. In this role, she is responsible for the overall management and strategy of the finance, accounting, tax, and risk management functions for the campus.
Ms. Bennett joined Prairie State in 2009, as a finance consultant during the construction of the campus, and has held various positions of increased responsibility within the company since then. Most recently, she served as the Corporate Controller, managing the corporate accounting and finance departments, while also working collectively with the controllers and operations teams at both the power plant and mine. Over the course her of 30-year career in the accounting and finance fields, Ms. Bennett has held multiple leadership positions with such organizations as Peabody Energy, Falcon Products, Inc., Ameren Corporation, and Boeing.
Ms. Bennett earned a B.S. in business education with a concentration in accounting and data processing from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. She is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a member of the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants.
Helen Gallagher is the General Counsel for the PSEC. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the legal support of the company’s business activities. In addition, Ms. Gallagher manages the legal aspects of compliance and the compliance audit role regarding company policies, protocols, and procedures.
Ms. Gallagher has been practicing law for over 20 years. Prior to joining Prairie State in 2018, she was the Director of Legal Services at Iroquois Gas Transmission Systems, LLC, as well as an adjunct professor at the University Of Connecticut Graduate School Of Business, where she taught courses in employment law and legal risks for contracts.
Ms. Gallagher earned a B.S. in Sociology from the University of Tampa, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University Of Connecticut School Of Business, and a Juris Doctorate from the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law.
Director of External Affairs & Organizational Strategy
Alyssa Harre is the Director of External Affairs and Organizational Strategy for the Prairie State Generating Company (PSGC). Ms. Harre is responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s government affairs strategy, managing public policy outreach on both the state and national level. She leads a collaborative and cultural approach to long-range strategic planning, development of organizational policies and Human Resources programs that seek to propel Prairie State toward achieving its vision and mission. Ms. Harre also oversees Prairie State’s public relations and community outreach activities.
Ms. Harre joined Prairie State in 2013 as the External Affairs Manager, leading the communications and public relations programs for the campus. She has held various roles of increased responsibility within the company since that time. Throughout her tenure, Ms. Harre has demonstrated her dedication to the company’s long-term success, achieving positive changes to proposed legislation and regulations at both the state and federal level. Prior to joining Prairie State, she worked in the public relations field, most recently at RBM Golf Course and Osborn Barr Communications.
Ms. Harre earned a B.S. in communications and advertising from the University of Illinois in Urbana – Champaign. In addition, she is a member of the Illinois Coal Association, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, and the Illinois Chamber Energy Council. Ms. Harre, an active community member and proud mother, lives in Washington County with her husband and daughters.
Tom Schmale is the Corporate Controller for the PSEC. Mr. Schmale joined the Prairie State team in 2010 as an accountant during the final construction phase of the campus, and has held various positions of increased responsibility since then. Most recently, he served as the Power Plant Controller, managing the plant’s financial and accounting functions, while serving as a valuable resource to plant staff, department heads, and the plant’s senior management team.
As Corporate Controller, Mr. Schmale oversees and directs the financial operations for the campus, in accordance with Prairie State’s procedures and guidelines. He also manages financial reporting, budgeting, and forecasting for Prairie State’s ownership group.
Prior to joining Prairie State, Mr. Schmale served as an accountant with Nascote Industries and The Maschhoff’s Inc. He earned a B.S. in accounting and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Additionally, Mr. Schmale is a registered Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.