CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Transmission lines, environmental impact, alternative energy sources, carbon capture, and winter power outages may not overwhelm the new president and chief operating officer of Appalachian Power. But there is one thing about the new job that has taken Charles Patton's breath away.
"As a flatlander, I remember thinking, 'Wow, this is crazy!'" Patton, 51, said with awe as he described riding in a service truck with an APCO crew.
"I looked up at a transmission line on the mountain and said, 'Wow! How do they do that?'" Patton said. He has been impressed with the skills and dedication of the Appalachian Power work force.
"The people of this company are incredibly dedicated to what they do," Patton said. "They work all hours of the day and night making sure the lights stay on. They are emotionally and professionally committed to what they do."
Patton has been on the job in West Virginia since June 1. Born in Nashville, Tenn., the understated company president is thankful for his aunt and uncle, who raised him.
"My aunt had a sixth-grade education, she was a domestic," he said quietly. "My uncle drove a truck -- a moving van." Patton was the first in the family to graduate from college, getting his bachelor's degree (cum laude) from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
How does a young man from Tennessee end up going to college in Maine?
"I had good grades, and my SAT scores were good," Patton said. "It was my guidance counselor, Mrs. Teresa Miller, who made sure I met with the different college representatives." The people from Bowdoin made the best pitch, and Patton was off to Maine. Good grades and test scores aside, Patton admitted he wasn't prepared.
"In the first two years, on average, I spent 10 hours a day outside of class, studying," he said. "So many of the others at Bowdoin went to prep school -- they were far ahead of me."
The hard work paid off.
Back in Tennessee, Patton worked with underprivileged youth before he left to pursue a master's degree from the LBJ School of Public Policy at the University of Texas-Austin. An internship with Houston Lighting & Power set him on his career path in the energy industry.