Thursday, April 20, 2006
Boone retires, reaps praises for integrity
By SUE WATSON
Holly Springs Utility Department General Manager Tom Boone has retired after 19 fruitful years with the city.
HSUD employees gave Boone a send-off Thursday as a way of saying “thank you” for his leadership and the direction HSUD has taken on his watch.
Boone thanked HSUD and the city.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “Out of 19 years, 17 of those 19 years were really fun. These last two have been tough (due to illness). But with your help, I made it up to the day.
“I appreciate the opportunity of working with you and mostly working for you. I want you to go on and make this one of the best utilities in the state.”
Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry cheered Boone on with words of appreciation and a plaque from the city.
“There are times when we all have to say goodbye,” he said. “This is a small token from the people you have helped to shepherd in so many ways.
“We’ve seen marked improvement in the staffing, buildings, training, and in a large measure due to the leadership he’s exemplified.”
DeBerry called Boone outspoken during decision making times and a team player once decisions were made.
“We have been richly blessed in moving the utility forward,” he said.
Cal Smith, retired TVA employee and friend, said Boone was a mentor of his, “a man of integrity and truthfulness.”
Office manager and accountant Dee Miller, who joined HSUD as bookkeeper in January prior to Boone’s appointment as manager in June 1987, praised Boone for his leadership and the way he treated customers and employees.
“He is a good communicator,” Miller said. “I like the way he handled customers and employees and I respect that. I wish I had his managerial ability. He was able to accomplish things seemingly without effort.”
Miller said Boone gave others opportunities to grow on the job.
“He gave me the opportunity to be office manager and accountant,” she said. Miller went from bookkeeper to accountant in 1990 and was named office manager in 2005.
“He’s always tried to be fair to employees and customers,” she said.
Don Hollingsworth echoed Miller’s praise of the outgoing utility director.
He credited Boone and the late Holly Springs Mayor Eddie Lee Smith Jr., for taking the utility department beyond where it had been.
“His goal was to be a full-service utility company, by putting water and gas everywhere we have an electric meter,” Hollingsworth said. “The success we’ve had is due to Mr. Boone and Mayor Smith. That’s when we started a lot of this expansion.”
As a result of their leadership, HSUD has added a substation in Slayden, at North Holly Springs and is planning for a new substation at Mt. Pleasant, he said.
Hollingsworth believes the utility department was organized sometime in the 1890s based on a date on one of the old maps at the HSUD office.
Hollingsworth said by the city operating its own utility, the city was able to keep millage rates low for a long time.
He said Boone’s shoes will be hard to fill at HSUD.
“He has an air about him,” Hollingsworth said. “When he speaks, even to his employees to this day, people listen. I greatly respect him and have enjoyed working with him.”
Catherine Elliott, customer service representative with 25 and a half years at HSUD, praised Boone for his integrity.
“He is so good to us; he’s just wonderful,” Elliott said. “He’s honest, he’s kind, he’s fair to customers.
“I will miss him. He was always here the whole 9 hours every day until he got sick. We could depend on him for help with problems; he was always here.”
Sherry Allen came to HSUD 18 and a half years ago. She called Boone “the backbone of the utility department.”
“I’m the type, if you have a job, be on time, be there. I’ve always looked up to him. I think that is what you need. You have a spiritual structure, too. We are a family that prays together and stays together.”
George Humphreys, electric department supervisor and employee since 1953, said Boone helped HSUD weather many storms.
“Under his leadership, we weathered the ice storm of 1994, weathered many thunderstorms, and added to the substation in Ashland and North Holly Springs,” Humphreys said. “He has always tried to improve the system; he’s always been very supportive of us.”
Patricia Shaw, who worked with Boone many years before moving to Northcentral Mississippi Electric Power, echoed the sentiments of other employees.
“There was tremendous excitement on April 1, 1987, at HSUD,” she said. “It was Tom Boone’s first day as general manager. Mr. Boone was a native of Holly Springs and we all knew him as a great Christian, a blessing to his family, a successful businessman, and a man of integrity.”
Shaw said Boone took interest in each employee and inspired them to give their best to provide customers with dependable electric, water, sewer and gas service.
“He was never satisfied, continually stressing planning and implementing improvements,” she said. “He was ever concerned for the safety and security of employees and constantly sought methods and means to upgrade the systems to provide up-to-date, safe equipment needed to do the job.
“I am so thankful for his strength, his goodness, fairness, diligence and honesty in dealing with HSUD’s customers and employees.”
Boone is at home in Marshall County where he has spent most of his life. He graduated with an engineering degree from Mississippi State University and served in the U.S. Air Force as a flight instructor during World War ll and served again during the Korean Conflict. He has one sister living in Cordova, his wife Bertie Jewel Tomlinson, and their children Susan Jordan, Kathy Woods, Ellen Ferrell and Thomas “Marc” Boone III and six grandchildren.
Looking at some of the annual reports, HSUD’s electric department had 987.3 line miles on the system in 1987, a purchase power for Tennessee Valley Authority of $6.954 million, 41 employees and 8,606 customers.
The 2005 annual report showed HSUD with 11,104 electricity customers, 1,276 line miles and a power purchase from TVA of $13.777 million, Miller said. The number of employees with the electric department has not risen significantly since 1987, she said. HSUD’s overall staff is at about 70 employees.
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