Whitehead set to retire after 38 years with EES

By Bob Robinson
Star Staff

   When Tom Whitehead first went to work at the Elizabethton Electric System (EES) in 1964, it cost less than one penny per kilowatt hour for Carter Countians to heat their home with electricity. Today, it cost six cents per kilowatt hour.
   In the span of 38 years, Tom has seen:
   * The number of customers increase from 11,622 in 1964 to 25,100 in 2002;
   * The cost of a 25KVA transformer go from $175 to approximately $500 to serve the average residential customer;
   * The number of EES distribution lines expand from 478 miles to 768 miles; and,
   * EES customer revenue increase from $1.5 million in 1964 to $35 million in 2002.
   Tom, who is responsible for billing and accounting procedures, has worked for every EES general manager since EES was purchased in 1945 from East Tennessee Light and Power Co.
   John Meagher, Frank Curde, Larry Musick and Phil Isaacs have served as general managers.
   A graduate of Happy Valley High School and East Tennessee State University with a degree in accounting and business administration, Tom was hired by Gene Holt and Jessie White as a general clerk.
   "I appreciate the support from Gene Holt and Jessie White. As a result of their training, I was able to expand my expertise and area of responsibility at the Electric System," Tom said.
   Tom went from general clerk to plant accountant to office manager to director of accounting and finance in the course of 38 years with EES. There are 16 employees in the department.
   "The biggest challenge was changing EES accounting from a ledger system to a computer system in the late 1980s." Today, EES accounting is almost 100 percent computerized, he added.
   Another primary concern has been to "ensure the EES business office operates efficiently and that ratepayers are given the best service possible," Tom said.
   In 1980, EES offices moved from the corner of Sycamore Street and Hattie Avenue to its current location, 400 Hatcher Lane.
   Tom said he plans to retire sometime this spring. When he does, he says it will give him more time to farm, fish and play golf. "I may also sell a little real estate, on the side," he added.
   His wife, Linda, is owner of Century 21 Whitehead Realty. The couple have four children, Greg, manager of Builders First Source in Fayetteville, N.C.; Jonathan, part-time realtor and house builder; Tina, receptionist at Century 21 Whitehead Realty; and Michael, sophomore at Milligan College.
   One thing about life is change. Tom Whitehead has been there and done that the past 38 years at Elizabethton Electric System. Now, he is looking forward to writing a new chapter in his life when he retires.