Paula Rosput Reynolds, currently CEO of Atlanta-based AGL Resources, will lead Safeco starting Jan. 1.

Safeco has hired an Atlanta-based energy utility CEO with Puget Sound-area ties to replace Mike McGavick as chief executive. Paula Rosput Reynolds will become the insurer’s president and CEO on Jan. 1, Safeco announced this afternoon. She has been CEO of Atlanta-based AGL Resources since 2000.

Her husband, Stephen Reynolds, has been CEO of Bellevue-based Puget Energy since 2002. “I have a bicoastal marriage,” Rosput Reynolds told The New York Times in March. With her new job, she’ll be 2,600 miles closer to her husband.

“With her proven CEO experience and impressive leadership skills, the board believes Paula is the right person to build on Safeco’s strong financial and operational foundation and lead the company forward,” Safeco lead-director Bob Cline said in a press release. Rosput Reynolds will also sit on Safeco’s board of directors.

McGavick said in July he would step down to consider a job in public service and has since announced his run for the U.S. Senate. He will depart as Safeco’s CEO and chairman on Dec. 31 and provide transition services to Safeco for two months after that.

The new chairman will be current Safeco director Joseph Brown, chairman of MBIA , a financial guarantor and specialty financial services provider in Armonk, N.Y.

Rosput Reynolds, 49, led AGL Resources through a difficult turnaround after she took the helm, cutting the work force by 25 percent to cope with deregulation and other problems. She has also overseen acquisitions by AGL, which has 2.3 million energy customers primarily in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia.

AGL Resources’ stock price has risen about 75 percent since she became CEO.

She is not likely to face the same turnaround situation at Safeco, where McGavick has spent the past four years leading the company back to financial vitality.

When he announced his decision to leave, McGavick said Safeco was “a great match for someone tempermentally organized for the long march.”

It remains to be seen whether that describes Rosput Reynolds, who told The New York Times` that “a person can become addicted to these turnaround situtions, because they have a certain rhythm to them.”

Rosput Reynolds also sits on the boards of Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

Seattle Times researcher David Turim contributed to this article.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or