By Pat Riley
My time at Gibson County Utility District (GCUD) can be summed up into one word. Changes. A lot has happened at GCUD in the past 33 years as with the natural gas industry.
When I first came to GCUD in August of 1987, I already knew something about the utility district. They were one of 50 natural gas systems that we had contracts with at my previous employer of seven years, Allen & Hoshall Engineers. So, moving from an engineering firm to an actual utility district and a new home was somewhat challenging but not impossible. I was in fact very happy to make the move and have my wife, Julie, closer to her childhood home in Sharon. We love living in Trenton, and it is home. I have loved getting involved and trying to make a difference.
I spent the first week on the job with my good friend Charles Abbott “riding the system” to get an overall feel for how big the system was and how it worked. Little did I know of the changes that would take place over the next 33 years.
I have watched the system grow a lot. In my time at GCUD, we went from approximately 6,000 customers to 12,000 customers and we increased the amount of pipe in the ground by 100 miles. System growth is key to running a successful utility.
I am also proud of the technology changes we have made to the utility over the years. When I first came to the utility in 1987, we did not have one single computer. Today, we have state-of-the-art equipment throughout the company. You have to to be able to operate at maximum efficiency.
When our state inspectors come in, they have told me that GCUD is one of the Top 5 gas utilities in the state. Something to be very proud of. In fact, in my time as the manager over the past 20 years, we have not had a single safety violation. A solid record in our business. This is also a reflection of the dedicated staff we have who stay focused on safety. Training is the key, and it is a constant occurrence at the utility. It wasn’t always that way. No man is an island as they say, and it takes that kind of dedication every day to keep our customers safe. The employees get the credit for such a stellar safety record. We have built an environment of safety.
Then there is the human element of relationships developed over the years. This like any other business is its lifeblood. It all comes down to people. I will miss this the most because they become your friends. Over the years, I got to know all the managers in the state through the Tennessee Gas Association (TGA) and officials in in Washington, D.C. that worked at the American Public Gas Association and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. These relationships help you to stay on the cutting edge of changing regulations.
Some of the highlights over the years was GCUD being featured on Pat Sumerall’s TV program “Champions of Industry” for a new technology that we had implemented. It was watched by 6 million people.
Then I became the president of the Tennessee Gas Association and the president of the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts (TAUD), a position I will hold until August 2021.
The pinnacle at TGA is the recognition of a manager who has dedicated themselves to the industry with what they call the “Silver Fame” award. I was awarded this in 2013. At TAUD we were recognized twice over the years with the M.M. Bullard Award for financial and operational excellence. GCUD was a founding member of TAUD.
So, as I end an enjoyable and productive career, I want to say thank you! It’s been a good ride, and I know that GCUD is a better utility today than I arrived 33 years ago. The future is bright for GCUD with Allyson Horner as your new general manager, and she will take GCUD to the next level.