Bruce County bids farewell to Duncan Hawthorne

Kincardine medical clinic to be renamed in Hawthorne’s honour

By Barb McKay


Parting is such sweet sorrow.



Duncan and Lesley Hawthorne mingle at the tribute dinner Wednesday night at the Ripley-Huron Community Centre. (Barb McKay photo)



A quote from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet may seem like an unusual way to start off an article about the imminent departure of Bruce Power’s president and CEO, but, in truth, the Kincardine community has had something like a love affair with Duncan Hawthorne.


Last Wednesday evening, more than 600 Bruce Power employees, local and provincial dignitaries and First Nations representatives gathered at the Ripley-Huron Community Centre to pay tribute to Hawthorne, who will leave the company after 15 years at the helm. Accolades were given throughout the night about his many accomplishments over the years, but his success in reviving the nuclear power plant to make it the largest in the world and his continuous community involvement and support have made him a local hero.


Hawthorne came to the former Bruce Nuclear Power Development from British Energy in 2001, at a time when the power plant was at its lowest point with Bruce A nuclear reactors out of service and numerous people out of work. Hawthorne took over as CEO of the newly formed Bruce Power and initiated a project to bring Units 1 and 2 back to service.


While the Bruce A Restart project went over schedule and over budget, it was in the end successful and generated numerous full-time and contract jobs. Then, late last year, Hawthorne achieved his ultimate goal for Bruce Power, cementing an agreement to have the remaining six units refurbished, this time with a phased approach that would provide long-term job security and extend the life of the plant to 2064.


Municipality of Kincardine mayor Anne Eadie acknowledged the lasting effect of that accomplishment.


“We will be forever grateful, Duncan,” she said, “Your strength and leadership was instrumental in taking Bruce Power out of the dark years.”


In recognition of the many ways that he has given to the community as a philanthropist and on behalf of Bruce Power, Eadie announced the Kincardine and Community Medical Clinic will be renamed in honour of Hawthorne.


Bruce County warden Mitch Twolan echoed Eadie’s sentiments and told Hawthorne he would always be welcome in the county.


Duncan, I’ve known you for 15 years,” he said. “The impact you have had on Bruce County is tremendous, too much to measure.”


Hawthorne said that since he announced his retirement at the beginning of February he has been flooded with well-wishes.


“I have been very emotional. The whole experience has been overwhelming.”


He said he has tried his best to communicate with the community his reasons for leaving - to be close to his children and grandchildren and to see his dream of being part of a new nuclear build achieved.


“I’m leaving Bruce Power in a very secure position, there is still work to do in the U.K.,” he said, adding that the plant is now the largest and best operated in the world. “This has been the highlight of my career, no matter what I do next.”


The departure is bittersweet for both Hawthorne and his wife Lesley.


“This is part of our lives and always will be. This is where we became Canadian citizens, where we got married. I will miss everything but the whiteouts.”


Hawthorne said it was important to him since coming to Bruce Power to immerse himself in the community and use his position to support great causes. Last Wednesday, in honour of Hawthorne proceeds from the function - $100,000 - were donated to Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey and the Liv a Little Foundation in Port Elgin.


“As a member of the community I have tried to help people who need help. I have tried to have a good corporate reputation and a good personal reputation. All I have done is reflect the values of this community. People here volunteer and they help out.”


On the corporate side, Hawthorne said his memories will be of the people he has met and worked with and the personal stories of people whose lives were changed by the reviving of the nuclear power plant.


“We’ve amazed people with what we’ve done and I have no regrets at all,” he said. “Bruce Power has a strong management team and great employees. If I could pack them up and take them with me, I would.”


Hawthorne’s final day on the job at Bruce Power is Apr. 30, but he will remain involved with the company in an advisory capacity until the refurbishment project gets underway in 2020. He said he and Lesley plan to keep their home in Kincardine and will return for visits.


Bruce Power chief financial officer Kevin Kelly will fill in as interim CEO as Bruce Power looks for a permanent replacement for Hawthorne. With his years of leadership, engineering background, political savvy and charisma, his shoes will not be easy to fill.


“You can look at it any way and the Bruce Power site is better today than when Duncan took it over,” said James Scognack, vice president of corporate affairs. “There are very few times in history when you get the right person with the right approach in the right circumstances at the right time. We had that with Duncan.”