By Cara Zarecor
Allyson Thompson Horner has been a key figure at Gibson County Utility District for almost 21 years, becoming the chief financial officer (CFO) just one year into her tenure. Early in 2019 she was named assistant general manager and is now honored to have been chosen to take the helm as general manager after Pat Riley’s retirement.
Horner was born and raised in Trenton. Her parents are Don and Shelly Thompson and the late Susan Thompson. She is the proud mother of sons Jonah, 27, who is married to Camille, Noah Eli, 21, and daughter McKinley, 17.
Horner graduated Peabody High School, then went on to attain her undergraduate degree in agriculture business at UT Martin. She then went on to earn her master’s degree in leadership from University of Memphis.
“I worked for a CPA firm before I came here,” Horner said. “When I was hired here, I was hired in accounting and then that job grew into CFO. I’m a very hands-on kind of ‘show me’ person, so if I don’t understand something, I’m going to ask questions, and that’s what has led me to learn the gas industry like I have. I do try to bring perspective to everybody’s job here. I can’t do every job here, but I feel like I have a working knowledge of everybody’s job here.”
Horner explained that when Riley announced his retirement, he recommended her to the board of commissioners to fill his shoes.
“The board, in their due diligence, felt like they needed to do a search to get the best candidate,” she said. “I made myself known to them, but I applied just like everybody else did.”
In an outgoing letter to area public officials, Horner made it clear that her “leadership philosophy is empowering others and removing obstacles while upholding integrity through accountability so we can and will reach our goals and succeed.” She goes on to lay out safety, teamwork, integrity, responsibility, innovation, goals, accountability, commitment and respect as the “core values by which ALL things will be based on” at GCUD. Working with community leaders is one of Horner’s most important goals.
Horner said that she is excited to lead GCUD’s employees into the next era and prefers to use the term “opportunities” as opposed to “changes.”
“We can teach technical skills,” Horner said. “We can’t teach good attitude and character, and that’s what we want to promote in all of our employees. I want a team concept. It’s all about the team. That’s the biggest thing.”
For the past three years, the company has implemented once-per-month training sessions for employees called “Gas 101” that Horner says has been a great success. Going forward, she plans to have abbreviated versions of “Gas 101” during board meetings so that members can learn more about what they do. Horner also plans to implement videos and pictures in the meetings to show the actual work operations of the employees out in the field.
Horner wants customers to feel confident with her accepting the general manager’s role.
“I care about my community, I care about the people I work with and live beside,” she said. “That’s my first priority. I want to go home every day to a safe home—a safe environment—and that’s what I want for anybody that any employee here comes in contact with. I have the experience. I know this gas company from the ground up, both inside and outside. I’ve made it my job to know this gas company. I also know the gas industry and the ins and outs that I’ve been able to learn through my experience.”
When asked what she is most excited about, Horner explained, “What I would like to see us, as a utility, transform from being a mainly-residential load customer (meaning sales depend on how cold winters are) to becoming a year-round gas supplier. With Tyson coming in and hopefully some spin-off industry from that, we have the opportunity to do that. The benefit of that to residential customers is that we can run gas lines in places that would have never been able to have gotten gas lines before with the usage that the chicken barns are going to use because the return on our investment makes it feasible for us to provide that. By running lines to some of the more rural areas where the chicken barns are located, potential residential customers would become able to connect to our service who weren’t able to before.”
Along with some remodeling of the main office building, Horner is working on implementing a new logo for the company. Recently while searching some archives, she found an article published in 1953 which said of the company, “Past and future for better living in your community.” Because that statement still holds true today, Horner believes it will be the perfect slogan to use with the new logo.
Horner said she is grateful for the opportunity she has been given, and with the team of employees she has in place, she believes they can work together to continue to grow the gas company.