HU Manager Kevin Johnson announces retirement effective June 17

As Kevin Johnson looks back on his time as Utilities Manager for the City of Hastings, the aspect he is most proud of is a department-wide emphasis on keeping a taut organizational structure. 

“My team and I have done that for 6 ½ years, re-evaluating roles and alignment, making sure Hastings Utilities was run as efficiently as possible” he said.

Johnson, 64, announced his retirement to utility staff March 19, effective June 17. 

Johnson started working at Hastings Utilities on Oct. 16, 2017 after serving as director of planning and process improvement for Metro Utilities District in Omaha since March 2015.

During his tenure at the Metro Utilities District, Johnson developed a business process improvement strategy and led strategic process improvement initiatives.

He came to Hastings Utilities at a time when the utility department was merging with the rest of the city government. 

It was his goal to foster a collaborative and encouraging atmosphere, making the city’s organizational transition a smooth process, all while upholding accountability to ratepayers.

Mayor Corey Stutte said Johnson excelled at his post.

“Kevin Johnson was the right person, at the right time, to lead the Utilities Department,” Stutte said. “His expertise and efforts during our reorganization and contributions to the City have made us a more efficient and effective government. I want to thank Kevin for his dedication to the citizens of Hastings, and I wish him the best as he moves into retirement.” 

Johnson is proud of the role several utility staff members played in the new citywide leadership structure, including Human Resources Director Lori Hartman, former Information Technology Director Kevin Schawang and Director of Engineering Lee Vrooman. 

“Those folks came from the utility side and bettered the city, creating fully-functioning departments,” he said. 

Johnson said he has enjoyed working with other city department heads. He worked closely with the Finance Department, especially Finance Director Roger Nash and Assistant Finance Director Larry Fox Jr.

The Assistant Director of Finance position was created in 2023 to lead the Hastings Utilities accounting team and an ongoing major software conversion as the city continues the implementation of its Enterprise Resource Planning modules. The ERP implementation began in fall 2017.

Other utility department accomplishments he is proud of during his tenure include:

  • Economic based decision-making while acknowledging customer impacts.
  • Cost of Service study discipline for each utility.
  • Integrated Resource Planning efforts for aging production assets.

Proactive investment strategies such as the purchase of the building at 3505 Yost Ave., which is currently home to the Development Services Department and vehicle maintenance team; the purchase partnership with the Hastings Solid Waste Landfill for the ground north of the landfill; and the sale of the ground west of the Whelan Energy Center to be home to the Heartwell Renewables biodiesel plant.

Five electric production units – North Denver Station units 4 and 5, WEC units 1 and 2, and the Don Henry Power Center – in operation simultaneously for the first time ever, during summer 2023.

Community wind farm development Phase 1, as well as Phase 2, which is currently in progress)

As the manager of Hastings Utilities, Johnson oversees a budget of around $90 million and a workforce of nearly 200 employees.

As someone who spent 25 years with Aquila Inc., in Kansas City, which became Black Hills Corp., Johnson appreciates the sense of ownership HU employees have over their organization.

Johnson and his wife, Karen, both grew up in Odessa, Missouri, about 35 miles east of Kansas City.

The couple has three adult sons, living in Colorado, Hastings and Jacksonville, Florida.

He is thankful for the support he has received from city leadership.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Hastings, especially working with some very capable HU leaders and staff, Mayor Corey Stutte, City Department Heads, Chairman Bill Hitesman and Utility Advisory Board members, and Council representatives,” he said. “The dedication to HU shown by these folks continues to drive the exceptional capabilities of your city-owned utility.”

Johnson also served as interim city administrator from mid-April 2022, until current City Administrator Shawn Metcalf started in December of that year.

Johnson said he has enjoyed working with Metcalf and Metcalf said Johnson has been an attribute to Hastings Utilities and the City of Hastings.

“Kevin’s upcoming departure will leave a large hole with Hastings Utilities,” Metcalf said. “When I first arrived in Hastings it was clear to me the Utility Department was being managed professionally. I’ve worked in communities where deferred maintenance in utilities was prevalent and that has not been the case here. Kevin has been proactive in obtaining cost-of-service studies to ensure utilities delivers a quality and reliable service. Kevin – thank you for your service and enjoy a well-deserved retirement!”

Johnson doesn’t turn 65 until January, but said he felt comfortable retiring because of the leadership team in place within the utility department.

“I have the right people in the right positions who can move Hastings Utilities forward whether I’m here or not, so my comfort level is very high,” he said.  

Published Date: 03/19/2024

Back to Announcements