Kissimmee Utility Authority President and General Manager James Welsh announced plans for retirement this week, effective March 31. The announcement came a day after a special KUA board meeting was held Oct. 2.
He will continue as CEO while the utility’s board of directors conducts a search for his successor, according to a release by KUA.
Welsh, 69, has served as KUA’s chief administrator since 1982. He holds masters’ degrees in both engineering and business administration, and is widely credited with making the utility company what it is today.
During his tenure, Welsh oversaw the expansion of the utility from 85 employees and 18,000 customers in 1982 to nearly 300 employees and 74,000 customers today. KUA is now the sixth-largest municipal electric utility in Florida, with annual revenue of about $188.2 million last fiscal year.
Friends and former colleagues, including former Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan, noted Welsh’s dedication to KUA and the many contributions he made to improving it.
“He didn’t just do one, or two or five things,” Swan said. “There were a lot of things that were done that really enhanced the capability of KUA. All of those things take years of commitment and leadership – and Jim’s done that.”
Swan, who served as mayor for 10 years, said Welsh’s unique personality – and attire – are things he’ll always remember.
“I thought the way he’s dressed is crazy,” said Swan, referring to Welsh’s infamous fedoras and vintage looking suits. “But it was great. “You never saw him without a hat…He always dressed well and very professionally, but I have to pick on him about something.”
Under Welsh’s leadership, KUA has been honored for customer service, reliability, workplace safety, training, storm restoration efforts, system improvement, financial reporting, environmental stewardship, community outreach, employee development and communications.
“It’s been a tremendous privilege to lead this organization over the past three and a half decades,” said Welsh in a statement Wednesday. “I am grateful for the many people who have supported me along the way, including, my family, friends, business and community leaders, and everyone here at KUA.”
KUA Board Member Kathleen Thacker first met Welsh about seven years ago, and said she has always been impressed with the CEO’s knowledge about every aspect of the operation.
“He’s just had such a great impact on KUA,” Thacker said. “To go from a little generating plant by the railroad tracks to what it is today, and to deal with all the construction and businesses that have taken place since he’s been here is amazing.”
Now that Welsh is retiring, Thacker said the KUA board will remain focused on the future of the utility company.
“We want to keep things moving in a forward motion,” she said. “We want to keep our eyes focused on the future and what’s ahead.”
The utility board will hold a special meeting Nov. 5 to review the planned recruitment process.