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Energy executive keeps West Virginia roots close

Energy Executive Keeps West Virginia Roots Close

Courtesy photo Kelly Tomblin (right) talks with workers in her role as CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company. Tomblin, a Logan County native, has been named to head Illinois-based power company INTREN.

Energy Executive Keeps West Virginia Roots Close

Courtesy photo Jamaica Public Service Company CEO Kelly Tomblin (left) credits her West Virginia spirit for helping to turn Jamaica s sole distributor of electricity around.

Energy Executive Keeps West Virginia Roots Close

Courtesy photo Kelly Tomblin

Kelly Tomblin has held leadership positions in utility and energy companies as far away as Jamaica, but she says her Logan County upbringing has never been far from her thoughts.

I always remind my children that they are West Virginians, Tomblin said. That s their heritage. And no matter how far you are, when you come back to visit a place like Man, you know you have that resilience and think nothing can keep you down. Tomblin will step down as CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company in early July to take the same position at the Illinois-based utility contractor INTREN. That means moving back to the United States and a little closer to her hometown of Man, after five years of heading Jamaica s sole distributor of electricity. It s the next phase in a career that has seen Tomblin climb to the top of several companies in a traditionally male-dominated field. She received two major nods for her work with JPS last year, winning both the Platt s Global Energy CEO of the Year Award and Businessuite magazine s Most Powerful and Influential Woman in Jamaican Business. It marked a significant turnaround for a company that didn t have the good graces of its customers when she started in 2012, according to Tomblin.

JPS was so maligned at the time I started, it was suffering from significant losses, she said. The first year was tough, real tough. But if you keep your eye on the goal you can get through those low moments.

Tomblin attributes much of her success to the West Virginia spirit instilled in her growing up as a coal miner s daughter in Logan County. She was the first in her family to go to college and graduated with a law degree from West Virginia University in 1988. When determining what direction she wanted her career to go in, Tomblin a distant cousin of former governor Earl Ray Tomblin originally aimed to be a lawyer representing companies throughout the energy and utility industries. But Tomblin said she soon realized she wanted to have a bigger hand in driving one company s culture and strategy.

I really loved being part of a single company and developing relationships, she said. In the 1990s and 2000s, Tomblin climbed up the ranks of various companies, including FirstEnergy, International Power and as a regional vice president for GDF SUEZ Energy (now Engie Energy International) prior to joining JPS.

Tomblin s experience caught the eye of the JPS, which serves more than 600,000 customers, and she soon had an offer to lead the then-struggling utility. Tomblin said her time in Jamaica heading JPS broadened her horizons and gave her the opportunity to build a company looking to gain its customers trust back. In a 2012 article on Tomblin s hiring[1], the Jamaica Observer said the utility s high rates and an underlying feeling that the monopoly is raking in profits without concern for its customers, made a turnaround under Tomblin hardly guaranteed.

I came in and recognized I didn t have all the answers. Nobody does, Tomblin said. But we [at JPS] all wanted to be a part of something better. It s not very technical, but when customers see your motives are pure, they ll give you an opportunity. I do believe that is what led to any turnaround we ve had. The move from New Jersey to an entirely new country wasn t expected to be an easy adjustment for her two children, George and Harrison, Tomblin said. But Tomblin and her husband decided the experience would ultimately be a worthwhile one.

We really wanted to expose [our children] to something outside of the Wall Street world, where everyone has eight cars, she said. And we knew this was something, like everything else, that was happening for a purpose and a reason.

When Tomblin stepped in as CEO, JPS provided her with a security guard and driver. That didn t last long, she said.

I just said, I m not going to live like this. I have to be with you guys, Tomblin said. I made it very clear that I wasn t going to be sitting on a pedestal. JPS has changed rapidly since 2012, according to Tomblin. The utility launched several energy-saving campaigns, a phone application for customers and smart grid technology to improve energy reliability, she said. Judges for the Platt Global Energy Awards said Tomblin has earned a reputation for organizational transformation and turned the company around very quickly in a difficult environment, according to a news release about the award winners[2].

During her time with JPS, Tomblin said she noticed many similarities between Jamaica and West Virginia. She said the community and family pride seen in Jamaica is much like what is experienced in the Mountain State.

We don t feel the need to let people know every dollar we have in our pocket, said Tomblin, referring to both Jamaicans and West Virginians. There is an openness that comes with the idea that no one is special, because everyone has something to offer. However, America came calling for the Tomblin family again, as her two sons were looking to start new chapters in their lives.

I have a son that s going to Brown [University], and another that wants to play a lot of sports like football, baseball, lacrosse, she said. We tried renting a house in Florida for a year to see how that did, but it just wasn t working. INTREN founder and CEO Loretta Rosenmayer, who met Tomblin previously at a conference and is stepping down to chair the company s board, reached out to Tomblin to lead the company. INTREN isn t a fixer-upper like JPS was, Tomblin said. The culture is already in place and the firm is looking to grow from a regional player to a national force, she added.

They re really positioned to take what is already a strong brand and spread it across the United States, she said. There s a real opportunity here because there is a great need for help in utilities and infrastructure.

Tomblin said she wants her journey from a company town in Logan County to multiple high-ranking positions in the energy and utility sectors to inspire women who want to carve out a similar path to executive leadership.

There are still a lot of obstacles [for women], she said. I always like to offer the advice of don t put everything into your fans or your critics. Just make sure you re competent in whatever you re doing, take risks and try to bring along the others who are left out.

Reach Max Garland at [email protected], 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.


  1. ^ In a 2012 article on Tomblin s hiring (
  2. ^ according to a news release about the award winners (

Jonah Goldberg: Why Trump is right about terrorists being losers


Literally and most plainly, it is simply someone who doesn t win some specific contest or challenge: the loser of a race, boxing match, business deal, etc.

Economists routinely talk about how this or that policy on trade, taxes, whatever creates winners and losers.

A big part of Donald Trump s winning appeal in the 2016 election was that Americans were on the losing end of trade policy. Trump took it further, arguing that we don t win wars or anything else anymore. Elect me, he promised, and you ll grow tired of all the winning.

But here s the thing: The logical and semantic inference of this rhetoric is that Americans, Trump voters, or the American military are losers.

Now, hold on. That rage building in some of you at the suggestion that Americans, Trump voters, or the American military are losers perfectly illuminates the problem with the word loser. The moment you use it to describe a person or a group, the meaning changes profoundly from an objective descriptor to a subjective epithet.
Tom Brady is widely seen as the greatest quarterback in the history of football. But even Brady loses games from time to time. Try watching the Patriots play in a Boston bar sometime. If the Patriots lose the game, announce, Brady is a loser, or, The Patriots are losers. In a technical sense, you d be right, which would amount to cold comfort in your hospital room.

I bring all of this up because in his statement on the Manchester terror attack, Trump said that terrorists are evil losers.

I won t call them monsters because they d like that term, Trump said. I will call them, from now on, losers, because that s what they are. They re losers. And we ll have more of them, but they re losers.

The response from many Trump critics has been a mixture of outrage and eye rolling.

Part of the problem is that loser is one of Trump s favorite insults. As USA Today cataloged, he s used it against everyone from Rosie O Donnell to George Will and Standard & Poor s. Not only has he called me a loser, but a total loser.

But I don t think he was calling me a terrorist.

Moreover, I don t think he s wrong to call terrorists losers. In the West, a lot of the people attracted to Islamic extremism are losers in all the meanings of the word. Omar Mateen, the avowed disciple of ISIS who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, was a screw-up and school bully who dreamed of becoming a police officer but ended up a very disgruntled security guard instead. The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, a college dropout, appears to have been a misfit.

Islamic terrorist organizations are hardly the only groups to recruit from the ranks of loserdom. Street gangs, neo-Nazis and countless communist fronts have been seducing resentful oddballs, outcasts and misanthropes. It simply makes sense that such people would be attracted to such groups. Radical causes provide a sense of meaning, belonging and importance to people who lack such things in their daily lives. Throughout Europe, the reserve army of jihadists is full of people who feel alienated or deracinated in Western society. In other words, they feel lost, which is a kind of losing. The extremists tell the disgruntled that their resentments are righteous and give these losers the opportunity to settle scores.

On the other hand, in some non-Western societies, terrorists aren t losers in the pejorative, schoolyard-epithet sense, but they are losers nonetheless. Osama bin Laden was the scion of a wealthy and prominent family. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden s successor as the head of al-Qaida, was from a successful Egyptian family of doctors and was himself a surgeon. They chose to become terrorists for ideological reasons. Subscribing to a doctrine first explicated by Sayyid Qutb, an Islamist intellectual, they believed that the true faith was losing the battle with the forces of modernity and the West.

President Trump may not have all these distinctions in mind when he calls terrorists losers, but that doesn t mean he s wrong.

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. You can write to him in care of this newspaper or by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO.

IAAF head Coe: Sports can help Manchester’s healing process

Sport can help Manchester’s healing process by celebrating humanity following the arena attack, IAAF President Sebastian Coe said Friday after watching athletes competing in the city’s streets. Less than a mile from the scene of Monday’s suicide bombing, Coe was among hundreds of people who lined a specially constructed street track to see stars competing, including Australian former Olympic champion hurdler Sally Pearson. Around the corner, British word champion Greg Rutherford won the long jump event in Albert Square, which hosted Tuesday’s attack vigil. The City Games went ahead amid tight security, with Britain’s terror threat level raised to critical after the blast that killed 22 people at the Manchester Arena. Thousands of runners will also take to the Manchester streets on Sunday for a half marathon and 10-kilometer race.

“Sport can actually help in that healing process,” Coe said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s not the only solution, but at this very moment there are coaches working the length and breadth of the country in some really challenged communities and that’s what sport does all the time. Maybe this is a really important time for sport to be involved in that process.”

The head of track and field’s governing body recalled watching “with mounting horror” from IAAF headquarters in Monaco as news of the atrocity unfolded at the Ariana Grande concert.

“Like many people, we felt we just needed to be here,” said Coe, the double middle-distance Olympic champion. “It can’t remedy or gloss over what happened a few days ago but at least it can help in that grieving process. I hope that the athletes feel tonight and the people, the great people that were here tonight, feel that the athletes may have just helped in that healing process too.”

Security in Britain is high on the IAAF agenda, with London hosting the world championships in August at the Olympic Stadium.

“I know the diligence and forensic work (by the security services), our police services are outstanding,” said Coe, who headed the 2012 London Olympics organizing committee. “They’re the best in the world. You’ve only got to see the way they responded here (on Monday) and the work that we did in London with those teams.

“The same thought and the same diligence is going into all these events and it’s important that we provide a safe and secure environment but we don’t lose sight of the fact that sport is a celebration of humanity and we mustn’t never lose that.”