A young engineer just out of college was hired by an electric cooperative to introduce new technology to the surrounding communities. This engineer would work to build out infrastructure to meet increasing electricity demand. He would implement new technologies to improve service and employee productivity while being a good steward of consumer-member’s investment.
Next, he would advance to manage the engineering and operations disciplines before moving into a leadership role as a general manager.
This new manager loved the relationship with the employees and the members that the cooperative served. He would become engaged in important statewide and national issues that impacted the reliability and cost of the electric service provided to the members. With a deep appreciation of the work of the local board of directors, employees, and members, this manager would move once again and lead the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives.
That is the story of my career, but it’s also the story of visionary leader in Kentucky’s electric cooperative program–J. K. Smith. Smith was an engineer that went to work for the then-newly formed Fleming-Mason RECC. He became the cooperative’s general manager and laid the foundation for electric service to expand throughout that region.
Smith left Fleming-Mason to form a new association with a mission to represent Kentucky’s cooperatives in legislative affairs, providing much needed materials in the formative years after World War II, and offering a communication tool that would become Kentucky Living.
Nearly 60 years later, the arc of my career would parallel Smith’s. I was the engineer at Fleming-Mason tasked with implementing new technology. I became the General Manager and loved working with the board, employees and members in that wonderful part of Kentucky. Now, I have the task of continuing the mission of this organization as set forth by Smith and the original board.
My mission is founded in the original spirit that built the cooperative program. I use three words to communicate with our staff, cooperatives and members: support, advocate and educate. Our mission is to support cooperatives in Kentucky with materials, training, and expertise.
We will advocate in Washington, D.C., and Frankfort on the policies and regulations that impact the affordability and reliability of your electric service. And, we will educate cooperative members and the public on how our program is responsible when discussing the incredible service we provide.
Reflecting on my career of more than 30 years, I think of the employees I have so enjoyed working with, the storms that have hit our state and how we restored service, and, of course, I think about the pioneers that I follow, like JK Smith. I have an incredible responsibility to work for the cooperatives across Kentucky. I take it seriously, and I’m proud to continue the legacy.