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HU’s Ferrell Vest to retire on Sept. 30

Hartselle Utilities General Manager Ferrell Vest is retiring, effective Sept. 30, after a 37-year career as an Army officer, police chief and pubic service administrator.

Vest submitted a letter of resignation to HU Board Chairman Mike Gunter on Wed., June 27, after coming out on top of a health issue and opting to spend more time doing some of the things he has always wanted to do.

“I had a health issue where everything turned out to be all right,” Vest said, “but it started me giving some serious thought to retirement. I decided I wanted to spend more time fly fishing, being a novice photographer and traveling while enjoying good health.

“I hate to leave because this is such a good company and its employees are such a good group of people with whom to work,” Vest stated. “I know I’m going to miss being here when I walk away.”

Gunter said the board would discuss steps for the hiring of a new general manager at its next regular meeting on July 16.

“Ferrell has been good for Hartselle Utilities and we hate to see him go,” Gunter stated. “He had had a vision for what we needed to do and where we needed to go and set the bar high for organizational efficiency. We are pleased with the work he has done and wish him well in his retirement.”

Vest, 60, retired from the U.S. Army as a Lt. Col. In 1994 and qualified last year for retirement under the Retirement System of Alabama. He served almost 10 years with HU, six years as Hartselle police chief and 18 months as city administrator.

Hartselle Utilities has experienced substantial improvements in water, sewer, gas and electric distribution systems thanks to Vest’s leadership.

The sewer system was rehabilitated with the replacement of deteriorated main lines in 13 difference collector basins, greatly reducing inflow and infiltration. Also, major improvements were made at the Waste Treatment Plant, including the installation of a centrifuge to remove sludge. The system currently meets or exceeds requirements of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Reconductoring, replacement of old transformers and tree limb clearance have made the electric system more efficient and reliable.

A south gate natural gas subtstation and the replacement of cast iron pipelines has strengthened the gas department’s ability to provide year round customer demand.

“A concerted effort to achieve operational efficiency in all departments has been made over the past five to six years and we’ve seen positive results,” Vest pointed out. “However, while we’re in pretty good shape now, the challenge remains to maintain systems as sound as possible and keep rates low at the same time.

“A downturn in residential construction and the loss of several major customers including the hospital, have had a negative effect on revenues. Next year’s operating budget will be one of the leanest we’ve seen in recent years.”

HU has a $21.5 million annual budget and 54 employees.

Vest and his wife, Beth, have been married 38 years and have two children. Tyler is a U.S. Army captain and is commanding a company of the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. Caitlin is employed at Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce. Both are graduates of the University of Alabama.

Beth is a 10th grade English teacher at Hartselle High School.