Kirk Gray, CEO and general manager of Graham County Electric Cooperative (GCEC) and Graham County Utilities Inc. (GCU), retires this month. Assistant General Manager Phil Cook will take over.
Kirk began his career with GCEC/GCU in May 2010 as the finance manager. He took on the CEO/general manager position in February 2016, replacing Steve Lines.
While Kirk was finance manager, he pushed to build the Talley Substation without borrowing money. By using GCEC employees rather than hiring a contractor, the cooperative saved $350,000.
When asked about the co-op’s most significant accomplishment during his tenure, Kirk says electric rates have increased by only 2.4% since 2009. He is also proud the electric co-op has not incurred any long-term debt since 2011.
In the past 8 years, GCEC has experienced a loss in electric sales due to municipal annexations of GCEC territory and installation of distributed generation.
Kirk and his wife, Cathy, owned and operated J. Kirk Gray P.C. Accounting firm for 17 years.
“Other than owning my CPA firm, the co-op is the longest I’ve worked in any other job,” Kirk says.
He worked for several local businesses, such as Haralson’s, Glenbar Gin and J.W. Martin, P.C. since coming to the Gila Valley 35 years ago.
Kirk was tasked with economic development for GCEC from the board of directors. He researched programs, and developed policy and procedures for funding interest-free loans at no cost to GCEC’s members through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The first project funded through the REDL&G program December 2018 was the first of its kind in Arizona.
Through the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, GCEC acts as a funding conduit for approved projects. The benefit for GCEC membership is increased electric sales, which helps keep rates down for all members.
“It was a challenge worth undertaking,” Kirk says.
He accepts any type of challenge, always saying, “Don’t tell me the reasons why we can’t do it, tell me the reasons why we can do it.”
GCEC past Board President Dennis Jacob says it’s been a great experience working with Kirk through the years.
“As CEO, the ability to think outside the box and find creative ways to benefit the co-op has made it a pleasure to work with him,” Dennis says. “May he enjoy his retirement years. I wish him the very best.”
The sentiment from GCU Board President Jeff Larson is similar.
“I like his ability to think outside the box,” Jeff says. “Just because it was not the way we always did it, Kirk was not afraid to look at a situation from a different approach. He was not afraid to plead his case before the Arizona Corporation Commission when he felt that he had a good reason to feel the way he did about an issue before them. He was able to work with other people that he networked through.”
Current GCEC Board President Reuben McBride says Kirk was concerned about the employees and wanted them to be successful and safe.
“He was a very pleasant person to work with, but expected everyone to do their job,” Reuben says. “He will be sorely missed.”
Kirk and Cathy have been married for 45 years. They plan on spending retirement golfing, hunting and fishing, and there will also be time to relax and travel. They have 2 sons, 5 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.