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John D. McMahon '76 is the New President and CEO of Orange & Rockland Utilities

“It sounds funny,” John D. McMahon ’76 said, “but the advice I would give a student in law school today is ‘don’t be afraid of taking a job that sounds boring.’”

John McMahon followed his own advice when he accepted a job offer from Con Edison after his graduation from New York Law School in 1976.

“I thought Con Ed sounded pretty dull, but I was really wrong,” McMahon said. Today, he is the President and CEO of Orange and Rockland Utilities, a wholly owned subsidiary of Con Edison.

“Energy is a small corner of law,” McMahon said, “but it is a tremendous area. It is complicated and interesting and a real challenge.”

A native New Yorker, John McMahon grew up “right next to Yankee Stadium.” He sold hot dogs at the stadium for 12 years through high school, Manhattan College and New York Law School. He says he has great memories of the Law School and of many of the professors he met there.

“Professor (Joseph T.) Arenson was really a character,” he recalled, “and a great teacher.” (Professor Arenson, who was a member of the adjunct faculty at New York Law School for more than 40 years, died in March 2005 at the age of 100.)

McMahon says his legal training really helped prepare him for his career as a utility company executive.

“I had a meeting a few weeks ago with 20 people sitting around a table and 16 of the 20 were lawyers,” he said. “The idea of a legal background providing a good foundation for business was really illustrated by that meeting.” McMahon explained that many businesses, including utilities, have become much more regulated in recent years, and an understanding of regulations and law really helps.

McMahon is involved in a number of important issues in his daily job.

“You have all these cooks in the pot of American business,” he said, “but it all goes back to what the consumer wants.”

McMahon said he believed that what consumers want is reliability and service and the challenge is to balance those needs with reasonable service costs. He also is concerned with getting the people in his company to understand more fully the public’s need for transparency.

McMahon explained that after last year’s storms when power was knocked out of a number of areas, his company had a decision to make about whether to focus their entire effort on service restoration or to combine service restoration with greater efforts to keep consumers informed.

“We could restore power in two hours or we could restore it in two hours and five minutes and let people know when the power would be back then,” he said. “We needed to provide information to customers and balance that need with the need to restore the power. I think we’ve made tremendous strides in this area.”

As President and CEO, McMahon also is involved in labor and management issues for 1,000 employees, including pension and health benefits issues. Once again, McMahon described this part of his job as a balancing act between employee needs and wants and economic sustainability. One more issue on his plate is regional planning for utility systems. “There are environmental issues and we also need to upgrade sites,” he said.

Overall, McMahon said he finds his work truly satisfying. He said he enjoys thinking and solving problems and that is exactly what he does every day.

“I’m so lucky,” he said. “I really do count my blessings.”