Friends, co-workers and others who had known Brad Jones recalled his memory after his sudden death.
Jones, 60, passed away in Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center of a rare intestinal cancer with a high mortality rate. The cancer was thought to have been in remission last year when he retired from ERCOT but returned late this summer.
“He’s one of the most charismatic, selfless leaders I’ve ever had the chance to work with,” said ERCOT’s Kristi Hobbs, vice president of system planning and weatherization. “He didn’t know a stranger. Everyone was his friend. He was truly about serving others, providing them development opportunities. He always had the best interest of the market and the industry in everything he did.”
Jones had two stints at ERCOT after a distinguished career at TXU (now Vistra). He served as the ISO’s vice president of commercial operations and COO from 2013-2015. Jones left ERCOT for NYISO before retiring in 2018, only to return to ERCOT as its interim CEO following the deadly 2021 winter storm.
He is widely credited with restoring confidence in the grid operator and laying out initial steps to prevent a repeat of the disaster, which almost brought the ERCOT grid to its knees. Part of that work included a listening tour around the state to share the message with Texans.
“It was really the organization’s darkest hour,” Hobbs said, noting her reluctance to use that expression. “He was our angel that was sent to us to help us navigate through that and rebuild the faith and all the good work of that organization. We can’t think of anybody else that would have been better suited for that role to help us during that time.
“And for that we’ll be forever grateful,” Hobbs added. “Brad was one of my best friends and mentors.”
ERCOT recognized Jones with a memoriam section on its website, linked from the home page.
“No words can express our sadness for this loss, and our gratitude for the opportunity to have known and worked with him,” the ISO said. “Brad was a friend, a colleague, a leader and a genuinely caring person. He touched the lives and careers of many ERCOT employees and industry colleagues. He will be dearly missed.”
Mike Greene, a 46-year veteran of the ERCOT market as a TXU executive and the ISO’s board chair, knew Jones for more than 30 years. He was one of the close associates who got a call from Jones during the Dallas Cowboys’ Oct. 29 game, alerting him that Jones had little time left.
“He’s always been a very confident guy and always did a great job in whatever job he was in,” Greene said. “We all think of Brad just in the job that he did following Winter Storm Uri. He did such a great job of pulling things together and giving the industry confidence. It was just an incredible job that he did. I told him I considered him a real Texas hero for that. It was tough. It took a lot of guts, a lot of confidence and a lot of ability to get it done.”
Jones was honored by politicians, regulators and industry leaders before retiring again in October 2022. During the Gulf Coast Power Association’s spring conference in April, he was presented with the Pat Wood Power Star Award by its namesake, former PUC and FERC chair Pat Wood III.
“Brad was fearless, decisive and passionate,” Wood said. “First, he saved Texas, and then he saved ERCOT.”
“Ever since Pat Wood got this award, I wanted it,” Jones said of the honor established in 2006 to honor individuals for advancing a fair and sustainable power market. “I hoped I could do something sometime that I could earn it. I realized you can’t do it alone.”
Jones was a devoted family man and a man of faith, Greene said. He was a father of six with his wife, Lynette, but still managed to keep a work-life balance that focused on family first.
Chris Schein, a friend and co-worker of Jones for 20 years, tells the story of a recent call he received from a man who had met Jones twice, for about two hours each time. The two men, both with large families, talked about how to succeed at work while also helping manage large families.
“Always make your family your first priority. Everything else will work out,” Jones advised.
“Yes, but my work is so demanding,” the man responded.
“Yeah, but it will work out. You’ll never regret the extra time you spend with your family.”
“This guy implemented Brad’s plan in early spring and said, ‘My family and I have never been happier,’” Schein recounted. “‘I only spent a few hours with Brad, but he literally changed my life. I’ll be remembering his advice throughout my career.’”
Veteran ERCOT stakeholder Mark Dreyfus, principal at MD Energy Consulting, last year recalled visiting the West Texas native in Albany, N.Y., after he had “packed up his cowboy boots.”
“I know he was lonely for home and family,” Dreyfus said during yet another celebration for Jones. “He treated me like family and treated me to an insider’s tour of the city: well-cooked sirloin, beer pong, and a reggae show.” (See “GCPA Members Honor Jones,” Overheard at GCPA’s 37th Fall Conference.)
Brad kept his cancer to himself and only those closest to him when he was first diagnosed last year. During his last board meeting in October, while his cancer was in remission, he told one former co-worker that his target for beating the disease was Nov. 26, his birthday.
Greene recalled a lunch in Fort Worth he and several other ex-TXU employees hosted for Jones during the summer. He said Jones was feeling great and was enjoying time with his family.
“September rolls around, his cancer has returned and it’s bad. We had a 10-minute conversation the first part of October. It was very emotional,” Greene said. “During the Cowboys’ game, it was a very different conversation. He started talking in a very calm voice. It was like he was describing a project to me. He said, ‘I’m feeling good, I’ve had time to be with my family, and I’m very grateful for this time.’
“It was the darndest thing. He was totally at peace. It was amazing. The last thing I told him, ‘You’re a braver man than I am.’”
Schein said Jones was a huge fan of Teddy Roosevelt. When he got his last call from Jones, Schein said Jones remarked that his Twitter feed was full of posts on Roosevelt during the weekend because it was the latter’s birthday.
“Brad said, ‘Teddy was also 60 years old when he died. I’m going to be 60 when I die. That’s one more thing that Teddy and I shared,’” Schein said.
“I told him, ‘I really wish you had admired George Burns. He was 99 when he died.’”
Schein and Greene have worked together to establish The Brad Jones Engineering Scholarship at Texas Tech, his alma mater. The scholarship fund is intended to honor Brad’s legacy and to reward junior-level engineering students and support them in continuing “the important work in the electric industry and for Texas, now and in the future.”
“I think that’s the best way that we can honor his legacy,” Hobbs said. “He was a selfless leader. He always wanted to give back and develop others. This is the best way to honor his legacy and keep it alive.”