Springfield, MO

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McKenzie Robinson | SBJ

2021 Men of the Year: Gary Gibson

City Utilities of Springfield

Posted online

As general manager at City Utilities, Gary Gibson is used to challenges and being prepared to tackle them.

That included taking precautions last year for COVID-19 – even before it was officially declared a pandemic. Gibson asked managers in January 2020 to review and update pandemic plans, as the virus was spreading in China. At his direction, a COVID-19 task force was created at CU the following month to address the rapidly changing situation.

“The health and safety of our employees and our obligation to support the community were equally important,” he says, noting he communicated almost daily with staff through email and video messages as many office employees transitioned to working from home.

Gibson, who took over the company’s top role in 2019, says keeping both CU’s buses and utilities running for its members was a high priority amid the early weeks of the pandemic.

“Recognizing many in our community were struggling as businesses temporarily closed, I implemented a policy to suspend disconnection of service due to non-payment,” he says. “Knowing this would impact our financials, it was still the right thing to do.”

During the severe winter weather that struck the Midwest in February, CU was among utility companies responding to rolling blackout orders from the Southwest Power Pool to reduce the load on the regional transmission system.

“I felt it was my duty to lead press conferences on the days that Springfield had to do our part by implementing rolling blackouts to protect the grid,” he says. “Our customers and the community deserved an explanation of what was happening and how they would be affected.”

Rob Rector, vice chancellor for administrative services at Ozarks Technical Community College, says Gibson’s leadership during the winter storm served as an example of how he frequently demonstrates community support. He’s served with Gibson on various boards in Springfield over the past 16 years.

“In the time that I have known Gary, he has always exhibited his commitment to advocate on behalf of customers, the business community, the city of Springfield and southwest Missouri,” Rector says.

Over his 30 years of service at CU, Gibson says the company’s ongoing $120 million fiber-optic network expansion, which started in February 2020, is his proudest professional accomplishment. The project, a partnership with internet provider Lumen, is laying over 1,100 miles of fiber-optic lines throughout Springfield. It’s on track to finish in fall 2022.

“While this project started before the pandemic, the last year has demonstrated how important it is for everyone to be able to work, learn and play virtually at home,” he says.

Gibson’s community involvement extends beyond CU. He’s serving this year as co-chair of the United Way of the Ozarks’ campaign cabinet and is a former board chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks, as well as a graduate of Leadership Springfield. Gibson currently is a board member with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Council of Champions and Springfield Innovation Inc.


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