Downing steps down from Chamber's top post

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BY JOAN GODERWIS | Special to The News-Herald

Frank Downing is stepping down as the Owen County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director after many years of service to the community. He has been instrumental in helping the county’s business community grow and prosper over the years.
Downing is a well-known figure around Owen County. He grew up in Fayette County and graduated from the University of Kentucky where he was a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. While there he was president of the University of Kentucky Agriculture Alumni Associations, a Distinguished Alumni of the College of Agriculture and a director of the University of Kentucky National Alumni Association. He also was a UK Fellow and Scoville Society member.
Following service in the United States Army, including a tour in Korea, he was employed by the University of Kentucky as an Agricultural Agent in Clark County. He then entered the rural electric business with 20 years of service with East Kentucky Power Cooperative.
His job titles included Special Projects Manager, Special Services Department Manager, Research and Sales Department Director, Power Sales Coordinator and Power Sales Representative.
He was Spokesman for East Kentucky Power before the Public Service Commission, various state and federal hearings, and on radio and TV. He was also responsible for securing and maintaining all environmental construction and operating permits for three coal-fired power generation stations with necessary Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments for Transmission.
His work for East Kentucky Power lasted from December 1958 thru December 1978.
Frank moved to Owen County in 1979 along with his wife, Libby, and their daughter Margaret spending the next 22 years working for Owen Electric Cooperative, one of the largest electric cooperatives in the United States. He is a member of the First Christian Church – Disciples of Christ, where he was named Elder Emeritus. 
Frank’s career at Owen Electric Cooperative began Jan. 1, 1979, and lasted thru Jan. 1, 2000, where he served as the President and CEO.       
Frank quickly became a mover and shaker in the community and has been instrumental in a number of successful projects that have improved the quality of Owen County life. These range from the acquisition of funds to widen U.S. Hwy. 127 to bringing a natural gas line into the county. 
Frank’s tenure in Owen County has included service with the following organizations:
•    Board of Directors of First Farmers Bank
•    Board of Regents of Northern Kentucky University
•    Community Assessment and 20/20 Vision Project
•    Executive Secretary for the Chamber of Commerce
•    Industrial Foundation member.
•    Owenton Rotary Club member and Director                                                                                     
•    Executive Director of Owen County Chamber of Commerce, Director of both the Northern Kentucky and Kentucky Chambers of Commerce
•    Chairman of the Owen County Industrial Authority
•    Chairman of TriEd Economic Development Foundation.
He served on several state and national boards, including Chairman of United Utility Supply Cooperative, National Food and Energy Council, National Generation and Transmission Association, and National Member Services Association. He has also served as Director with many organizations, including East Kentucky Power, Kentucky Associations of Electric Cooperatives, Southeast Data Cooperative, Atlanta Winchester Data Centers and First Farmers Bank & Trust – Owenton, as well as the National Cooperative Service Corporation in Washington, D.C.
Frank was named Citizen of the Year in Both Clark County and Owen County (55th recipient). He was a 50-year Rotary member and Paul Harris Fellow.
Even though he is officially stepping down, he still has ideas for Owen County’s future. First and foremost on Frank’s list is a community center, a place he envisions serving all ages. He also wants to work on county park improvement and revitalization of the downtown district. Frank’s life is a wonderful example of how one person can make a difference and have a significant impact on the lives of so many. His devotion to family and community is admirable. May we all be as devoted and tenacious as Frank Downing.
Jenni Duncan will be taking over the leadership role with the Owen County Chamber of Commerce. Jenni is a native of Owen County, having been raised in the Lusby’s Mill community by her late grandparents, Raymond and Kathleen Duncan. She is the daughter of the late David Duncan, mother to Grant Smith and partner to Mark McChesney. She has been a funeral director for 25 years, the past 15 with McDonald & New Funeral Homes. Jenni is a longtime volunteer for Bluegrass Care Navigators Hospice and has worked to improve services available to Owen County residents.
A dessert reception will be held in Downing’s honor from 5-7 p.m., Sept. 13, at the Owen County Extension Office. A presentation will begin at 6 p.m. To RSVP, call 859-904-3414.