MLGW CEO Jerry Collins reflects on a decade in the power structure
by Jon W. Sparks
As Plato said, “The measure of a man is what he does with power.” This month’s Exit Interview is with one of those men who knows a few things about power: Jerry Collins is stepping down in December as president and CEO of Memphis Light, Gas and Water after a decade of managing the utility. Before that, the registered professional engineer was director of public works in Memphis and by the time he retires, he’ll have put in 38 years with the city. If anyone can tell you about aquifer science, natural gas, power lines, or sewer access points, it’s Collins.
“I do have some institutional knowledge,” he says, modestly. “And I know where all the bodies are buried,” he adds, dryly.
He speaks with clarity befitting an engineer and when he finds exactly the right words, he sticks with them. Ten years ago, he told the Memphis Flyer, “We have to make sure that MLGW is not the subject of headlines and TV news pieces. We’re preaching that we want to be dull and boring. If we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, there’s no reason that MLGW should be in the limelight.”
In a recent interview with Inside Memphis Business, he said, “MLGW had been in the headlines a lot during that period of time before I got here, and one of my mottoes is it’s good to be dull and boring, and a low profile is the best profile.”
Inevitably, there were headlines during his tenure in the aftermath of storms, with the expansion of smart meters, with rate hikes. He has gotten some criticism from some elected officials, but his stewardship, steadiness, and political acumen are reflected in his desire to, as he says, “endeavor to give the people the service they deserve at the lowest possible price.”
Reflections on Rhodes College and higher academics with Dr. William E. Troutt
by Samuel X. Cicci
Some people never want to leave college, but Dr. William “Bill” E. Troutt was lucky enough to stay at the helm of Rhodes College for almost two decades. At the age of 68, he retires as the longest-serving college president in the country, with a 17-year position at Nashville’s Belmont College preceding his time in Memphis. Thirty-five years is a long time, and the education landscape has changed drastically during his tenure. However, he doesn’t regret a second of it. Marks of his leadership remain on campus, including the $35 million gift for the Paul Barret Jr. Library, opened in 2005, as well as more internal changes, such as restructured trustee governance. The college’s continued growth in the community, as well as the success of its students, may well be Troutt’s greatest legacy, but the bow-tied Tennessee native has many fond memories of his time at Rhodes.
IMB: You were at Rhodes for 18 years?
Dr. William Troutt: I came here on July 1 of 1999, and tomorrow, I finish 18 years of service here and 35 years as a college president. I was at Belmont at Nashville for 17 years before that, so it’s been a wonderful journey.
When I was a college senior, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I had started college thinking I’d be a minister. Then you go to liberal arts college and things are clarified, so I decided I wanted to be a college president. To my surprise and delight, that’s been my occupation for most of life, really. You’re my last interview of my professional career! July 1, 1999, has passed quickly.
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