Vice President, Community Relations & Strategic Partnerships
I would say Economic Development is both our biggest challenge AND opportunity in 2014. It is not a secret that our community’s workforce took a significant hit during the recent recession. However; this challenge also provides Wichita the opportunity to continue to focus on our workforce diversification efforts.
Westar Energy and the community of Wichita have enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership for over 105 years. It is our goal to be more strategic and purposeful in order to provide the most impact for the communities we serve. To make this happen, a change in strategy has taken place. For example in 2013, we launched our Your Gift, Your Choice campaign where our employees actually chose the non-profit organizations in which they wanted Westar Energy to provide a company match. The Westar Energy Foundation did indeed match the employee’s gifts, DOLLAR-FOR-DOLLAR, with NO CAP! This change in strategy caused 2013 contributions to non-profit organizations in the communities we serve to be 35% higher than 2012. Course Correcting is a Good Thing! We believe Together 2014 is a relevant and compelling opportunity for Westar Energy to Super-Serve the community of Wichita.
I would say Ron Holt, Assistant County Manager for Sedgwick County, is the local person that has influenced me the most. I have had the privilege of knowing Ron for over 40 years. We have both been members of St. Mark United Methodist Church for at least that long. I had the opportunity to work closely and learn from Ron when he was the Building Project Chair and I was the Business Administrator at St. Mark during its unprecedented building expansion. I have come to rely on Ron’s wisdom while I was a 20 year entrepreneur and also during my career here at Westar Energy. It’s truly ironic that Ron is the former president of Kansas Gas & Electric. I did not have the opportunity to work with him in the electric utility industry. Needless to say, I am truly grateful for Ron’s guidance over the years.
Half a century!
Wife – Denise Curry Sherman, Daughter – Bethany Sherman Bledsoe.
Our Revitalized Downtown Wichita.