In March 31 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
After joining Duo County Telephone on Jan. 1, 1977, CEO and Executive Vice President Bill Magruder will soon retire from the position after spending 35 years of his life managing the local telephone cooperative.
Magruder notified the cooperative's board back in November of his intentions to step aside, effective on April 15.
Originally from Shepherdsville, Ky., Magruder attended the University of Kentucky following high school and first learned of Duo County while working for a consulting firm in Lexington following graduation. Duo County was one of the firm's clients.
After working with the cooperative on several projects, Magruder developed a relationship with the folks at Duo County and that eventually led to his receiving the job, following the former CEO's retirement.
In the time since, many things have changed in the telecommunications world and Magruder has kept Duo County at the forefront of this ever-changing technology.
"Obviously the technology has just gone through major evolution, multiple evolutions I'd say," Magruder said. "The later in time that I've been here the faster that change occurs."
He said when he began at Duo County the cooperative offered four-party telephone service and you could have any type of telephone you wanted "as long as it was black."
"We quickly went from there to all private lines long before the larger companies out in the rural areas did that," Magruder said. "We went to electronic or digital switching that offered a lot of new services like call forwarding, call waiting and those types of things."
He said the next evolution that came along was Internet service, beginning in the mid to late 90s with dial-up service.
"It was part of the World Wide Web but it wasn't a great customer experience," he said. "Obviously, now we've gone to a Broadband service and even taken that one step further by providing fiber all the way to a customer's house."
He said Duo County's venture into video service and acquiring the local cable company several years back was also key to the cooperative's growth and expansion in both Russell and Adair counties.
"What we find ourselves doing on the wire line part of the company now is basically we're a Broadband provider," he said. "The telephone line is a supplementary issue, it's something we take for granted and it does its job very nicely but it is really the Broadband connection and video connection to the world that has come along in the last 10 years."
Magruder said he was extremely pleased in the wireless service that Bluegrass Cellular now provides Duo County customers and Russell County.
"A little over 20 years ago we did have a vision that we wanted to bring wireless service to rural areas," Magruder said. "We started Bluegrass Cellular and it has grown into a really successful wireless provider that provides the absolute latest voice and wireless Broadband service as well."
He said he has been able to serve as chairman of Bluegrass Cellular board since its founding and will continue in that position past his Duo County retirement for some time.
Also within the past decade, Duo County built a new facility on US 127 adjacent to Fruit of the Loom which has been a big hit with cooperative members.
"We clearly grew, our staff grew and we needed a larger facility, but we also wanted to put a facility here that would benefit the customer," he said. "We have over a third of our customers that come to the office every month, either to pay a bill or to get a service and when you think about it that is a lot of people that drive from all around that want to come to the office to do their business."
He said the company has prided itself in face to face service rather than just over the Internet, through the mail or an 800-number.
Magruder said the thing he will miss most about stepping away from the cooperative will be the contact with his employees and the customers.
"The people," he said. "I've got an excellent staff. They do a great job of customer service and I've been very interested in that area throughout my career. So I'm going to miss that interaction of our staff and the customer."
He said because of the industry Duo County is in, they've been deeply involved in both national and state affairs that affect the telecommunications world and in turn, has led him to travel at a rapid rate, something he says he would miss the least if he had to choose.
He also spoke highly of Duo County's board of trustees, saying each one he has worked with over the years had a vision to better the cooperative.
"Each and every board member that I've ever had has been very committed to customer service and improving technology and that has made my job a true pleasure," he said. "We all agreed in the same direction we wanted to take the company and that is one of the reasons why we've been able to be successful. I've had an excellent board to work with through the years."
Magruder said his wife, Kathy, and his daughters, Laura and Jessica, were very excited for the extra time that is to come with him.
"I've got two daughters and by that time I'll have two grandsons so I think they're probably glad to have someone else around to help out sometimes," he said.
While retiring from Duo County, Magruder will still be active in Russell County in a variety of ways, particularly at the Bank of Jamestown, where he is president and chairman.
"I'll probably spend a day or two a week at the bank," he said. "Finance has always been a very important part of our business (at Duo County) and I certainly am very deeply involved in the financial side here so certainly it relates, in some ways, to the banking business."
He said he is looking forward to spending some additional time at the bank and even working with some customers.
With a few days left before he steps aside, Magruder wanted to let the people of Russell County and their other customers know how much they were appreciated by him.
"It has been a privilege to be a part of changing and improving lifestyles by bringing new technology and entertainment through communication to our area," he said. "We've had the opportunity to make some improvements along those lines and to work very hard on the economic development issues in the community."
He said he hopes Duo County has had some impact on those issues as well.
"We support the economic developments in this community extensively through the Industrial Development Authority," he said, saying he has been a member of that board for some time and will remain on that board as well following his retirement.
Duo County's new CEO, Tom Preston, whom Magruder spoke highly of, will begin at the position following Magruder's last day next month. He comes from a cooperative in Eastern Kentucky where he served as CEO there for a dozen years.