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Executive Leadership at Hearthstone

The strength of our leadership team differentiates Hearthstone. Our leaders are focused on executing on our strategy, driving growth for our company while improving the communities we serve. Meet the leadership team.
MOBrien

Morgan O'Brien

Chief Executive Officer

Morgan K. O’Brien is Hearthstone’s Chief Executive Officer. He is a native Pittsburgher who was raised by a blue collar Irish-Catholic family to value all people and all forms of work. His work ethic and value of other people helped him rise to become CEO at Duquesne Light Company the electric provider for Western Pennsylvania. He later moved over to become the CEO at Peoples Gas serving Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.

In those roles, he was the face and voice of the hardworking employees who dedicated each day to helping the families and businesses they serve. He successfully helped grow both companies in terms of employment, customer base and in total investor value. He has positioned both Peoples and Duquesne Light as the true community partners and champions they are today. They both continue to invest and partner with many organizations that drive economic development and improve the quality of life in the regions they serve.

O’Brien earned his college degrees from Robert Morris University. O’Brien is active in civic organizations, including serving as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater. He also serves on many boards, some which include Matthews International, Watt Fuel Cell Company, Dollar Energy, Co-chair of Pittsburgh Works Together and African American Chamber.
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Melissa Dykes

Chief Financial Officer

Melissa Dykes joined Hearthstone as Chief Financial Officer in December 2021, bringing with her both utility operations and finance leadership. Prior to joining Hearthstone, Ms. Dykes most recently served as Interim Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Operating Officer for JEA, leading nearly 2,000 team members in providing reliable, affordable, and safe utility services to more than one million people across four counties in Northeast Florida. She had full P&L responsibility for JEA’s $2 billion annual budget and $8 billion in invested assets.

While at JEA she led operational improvements that resulted in best-in-class reliability and safety performance. As CFO, she provided leadership to ensure the financial health of JEA, resulting in access to capital at low cost on behalf of JEA’s customers. Her efforts as CFO helped JEA deliver more than $1 billion dollars in cost savings to the community.

Prior to joining JEA, Ms. Dykes was CFO at a portfolio company of a large energy private equity firm and a principal in a renewable energy development company, where she was responsible for origination, commercial structuring, development and capital raising for renewable energy projects. She also was Vice President of Investment Banking at JPMorgan, where she was responsible for providing capital solutions for clients, including more than $26 billion in financings for many municipal electric and water systems across the country, risk management product delivery, and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to joining JPMorgan, Ms. Dykes worked for The World Bank Group, where she researched and published on private participation in infrastructure industries in developing countries.

Ms. Dykes serves or has served on a number of Boards, including the United Way of Northeast Florida, the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. She received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Florida and holds a certificate in Advanced Management from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
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Kevin Degenstein

Head of M&A and Integration

Kevin Degenstein was appointed Chief Operating Officer and Chief Compliance Officer in August 2014. Mr. Degenstein has served in the natural gas utility industry in executive management, operations, engineering and regulatory capacities for more than 30 years. Most recently, he was president and chief operating officer of Hearthstone Utilities from June 2008 until November 2013, when he departed the Company. He joined Hearthstone Utilities in 2006 as senior vice president of operations. Previously, Mr. Degenstein was with EN Engineering, an engineering consulting firm, as vice president of distribution from 2002 until 2003 and vice president of technology from 2004 until 2006. He began his natural gas utility career in 1982 with Nicor Gas where he held various increasingly challenging operations roles, including chief engineer. Mr. Degenstein is a Registered Professional Engineer.

As of February 2022, he is in charge of Mergers and Acquisitions.
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Ken Oostman, P.E.

Chief Operating Officer

Ken Oostman is Hearthstone’s Chief Operating Officer. Ken joined Northeast Ohio Natural Gas Corp. (NEO) and the Hearthstone Utilities family in 2019. Prior to joining NEO, Ken served as Vice President of Technical Services for TransCanada. He also served as Vice President of Engineering for Columbia Pipeline Group, and Vice President of Operations and Vice President of Technical Services at New Mexico Gas Company. Ken has worked in the energy industry for twenty-nine years and held a variety of positions, including operations director for Meade, a pipeline construction company, senior project manager for EN Engineering, an international engineering and consulting firm, and numerous positions with Nicor Gas, a large local gas distribution company near Chicago, Illinois. Ken earned educational degrees in business administration and mechanical engineering from Valparaiso University, Indiana, in 1988 and 1993. He is a licensed professional engineer, and remains active in the Ohio Gas Association and American Gas Association.

Ken currently lives in central Ohio with his wife and family.
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Jo Carol Farmer

Senior Vice President, Rates and Regulatory Relations

Jo Carol Farmer is Senior Vice President, Rates and Regulatory Relations for Hope Gas, Inc. and Hearthstone. Jo Carol has over 20 years’ experience in natural gas utility rate regulation. In her prior role as Director of Regulatory and Pricing at Hope Gas, Inc., dba Dominion Energy West Virginia, she oversaw all rate functions, including general rate case proceedings, infrastructure rider proceedings, and gas cost recovery proceedings.

Jo Carol graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science and began her professional employment with the Department of Defense. She joined Consolidated Natural Gas Transmission Corporation (now Eastern Gas Transmission and Storage) in the Computer Services group before moving to their Rate and Regulatory group. When her son was born, Jo Carol exited the workforce and took on the role of stay-at-home mom for several years. She returned to rate regulation work as a Regulatory Analyst in the Regulatory and Pricing group at Hope Gas, Inc., dba Dominion Energy West Virginia, and was appointed as Director of that group in January 2020.

Jo Carol is a 2019 graduate of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, a 2015 graduate of the Developing Dominion Leaders Program, and a 2014 graduate of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership West Virginia program.

A West Virginia native, Jo Carol resides in Bridgeport with her husband and their beagle.
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Jed Henthorne

Vice President of Finance

Jed Henthorne is Hearthstone’s Vice President of Finance and has been with the company since 1982, serving in various positions in accounting, regulatory affairs, information technology and operations during that time.
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Michael Loeffel

Vice President of Human Resources

Michael Loeffel is our Vice President of Human Resource. Mike will have the primary responsibility of building and leading the Human Resources operations to support our fast-growing company. We believe his broad experience will help accelerate Hearthstone’s continued success and empowering commitment to everyone becoming their best while serving their local communities.

Prior to joining Hearthstone, Mike was the Senior Vice President (SVP) for Carriage Services, a Houston based funeral and services provider and prior to Carriage, he was the SVP for Veolia North America, a water, waste and energy management solutions firm.

Mike is a Wisconsin native and was transferred to the Houston area in 2014 where he currently lives. He and his wife Brenda enjoy spending time with their two children, William (13) and Samuel (12), at swim meets and soccer games. He also enjoys golfing and volunteering at his church and local food bank.
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Lynne Rhode

General Counsel

Lynne Rhode is our General Counsel. Prior to joining Hearthstone, Lynne served as Assistant Deputy General Counsel at Norfolk Southern, specializing in Markets & Regulations and Environmental. She previously led the Environmental and Natural Resources Department of the Virginia Attorney General's Office. Her prior utility experience includes serving as Chief Legal Officer for a large utility (JEA), outside counsel through her work at Troutman Pepper in Virginia, and as an employee of Dominion early in her career.

Lynne is a Virginia native now living in Florida. She and her husband Bryan enjoy travelling and spending time with their two boys. Lynne is an avid soccer player and is passionate about animal rescue, often fostering dogs and cats for local rescue organizations.
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Jim VanderBiezen

Vice President of Finance and Controller

Jim VanderBiezen has been serving as Hearthstone’s VP Finance and Controller since January 2018. Prior to joining Hearthstone, Jim has extensive experience in accounting, finance and operations having held officer and leadership roles at Nicor Gas, Tropical Shipping and Updater Home Services formerly Bridgevine.