Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McClellan: Voss for Foss? It's Who You Know

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McClellan: Voss for Foss? It's Who You Know

Article excerpt

Karen Foss left KSDK for Ameren in 2007. It seemed like an odd hire to me. Why would a utility company want a former anchorwoman? The company already had a competent public relations person, Susan Gallagher.

Of course, the public didn't know Gallagher. If you trotted her out to defend something indefensible, people wouldn't say, "Well, if Susan says it's reasonable, it must be." That's what the company figured it was getting with Foss. Credibility.

One of her first big jobs was a 30-minute infomercial about the disastrous breach at Ameren's Taum Sauk reservoir. The story was almost two years old by then, but Foss managed to put a good spin on things. She looked and acted like a reporter interviewing company officials. What's more, the company aired it on her old station, KSDK. Masterful.

Another time, when the company was under fire for seeking a rate increase, the company contended that opponents were making inaccurate claims. Foss appeared in an ad sitting at a kitchen table. "We believe our customers understand and deserve straight talk," she said.

Foss retired three years ago. Couldn't the company use somebody like her now?

That thought came to mind when I read Jacob Barker's story in Wednesday's Post-Dispatch about a meeting Tuesday night in Washington, Mo. Speaker after speaker railed against Ameren's plan to build a coal ash landfill along the banks of the Missouri River. Such terrible timing for the company! Just when it looked like Ameren could shove this past the compliant Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Duke Energy had that unfortunate mishap in North Carolina in which its coal ash coated the Dan River with toxic sludge.

In the wake of that disaster, why would anybody build a coal ash landfill in a flood plain?

This time around, there is no Karen Foss to explain things.

The company does have a new spokeswoman. Her name is Julie Voss Catron. I do not know her. Neither do you. That's a problem. She does not have great name recognition. What she does have is connections. Make that singular. Connection. She is the daughter of Thomas Voss, board chairman, chief executive officer and president of Ameren Corp. …

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