Melanie Rice

Vice President
Southwest Gas Corporation
Southern Arizona Division

By Romi Carrell Wittman

Melanie Rice vividly remembers the day her father graduated from college. 

“He started working right out of high school and attended college by taking night classes,” Rice said. He and her mother showed her the benefits of hard work and determination. Today, she is the VP of the Southern Arizona Division of Southwest Gas Corporation. 

Rice began her career at a large Houston oil and gas company as a field engineer. In 1999, her husband wanted to attend the University of Arizona for his graduate degree so the couple moved here and Rice pivoted to civil engineering consulting.  

When the 2008 recession hit, she pivoted once again to the utility sector. Rice joined Southwest Gas as an engineer. “I was able to marry my prior experiences and the professional relationships I developed in the greater Tucson area to bring value to the organization,” she said. 

Rice rose steadily through the ranks at Southwest Gas and today oversees 400 employees in a division that provides energy service to 430,000 customers. She attributes her rise to her classic first-born, Type-A personality. 

“My parents had high expectations, but in a supportive way,” she said. “I learned that seeking perfection is an impossible and often paralyzing standard, but excellence is a worthwhile pursuit.” 

Rice believes in leveraging one’s network to help others. “Women can have considerable influence and have more to offer than we give ourselves credit for. It’s important for women to set a good example by sharing our experiences, influence and accomplishments while remaining humble and supportive of future generations.” 

She serves on the boards of Aviva Children’s Services and Easterseals Blake Foundation. Rice is also a member of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. 

 “Melanie’s active community engagement and advocacy for policies that support both growth and community needs highlight her impact beyond the corporate sphere,” said SALC President and CEO Ted Maxwell. “Her efforts will help to improve the quality of life in our region.” 

After 27 years in her industry, Rice has solid advice for young women. “It’s okay to change paths during your career. Find a trusted mentor or advisor to be your sounding board.” 

Rice hopes that she’ll be remembered for her work to create positive change. “I hope to be remembered as helping to lead energy transformation here in Southern Arizona and making it an even more vibrant place to live.” 

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