Lara Simmons Nichols

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Location: Charlotte, NC
Founded: 1904
Industry: Utility

Lara Simmons Nichols
Vice President, Nuclear and Environmental Health and Safety Legal Support

Duke Energy

“I am drawn to working with teams of people and collaborating,” says Lara Simmons Nichols, vice president nuclear and environmental, health and safety legal support at Duke Energy. “You have to demonstrate leadership such that employees you don’t have direct authority over want to follow you and dedicate themselves to the success of your projects.”

Fun Fact: Duke Energy sponsors a program called Volunteers in Action, which encourages employees to volunteer their time in communities where they work.

Duke Energy is still dealing with the aftermath of a spill at one of its coal ash basins in Dan River, NC, in 2014. “As a result of resolving investigations and allegations arising from this event, the company is subject to oversight by a court-appointed monitor. One of my principal responsibilities is supporting our interactions with the court-appointed monitor,” says Nichols. “For me as a leader in a legal role, the challenge is maintaining a sufficient margin to compliance in a manner that does not stifle creativity and innovation.”

Nichols serves on the board and executive committee for Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, and she is active at her daughters’ schools. “In those arenas, I try to bring what I have learned from our corporate settings in terms of how we move things forward and get things done,” she says.