Mountain names a new assistant general manager

Quentin Murphy is Mountain’s new assistant general manager.

Quentin Murphy is Mountain’s new assistant general manager.

Quentin Murphy embraces the role

Growing up on the family farm in Morgan County’s Ezel community, Quentin Murphy’s family relied on a green, rotary dial phone attached to the wall to connect to friends and family. Mountain Telephone made it possible.
“In rural areas, there was no interest from larger companies to establish phone service,” Murphy says. “That was the only means of communication in and out of those small communities, and we only had that because of the cooperative. Those services were vital.”

Now, Murphy is in a position to help guide Mountain Telephone as it continues to provide essential services, such as reliable telephone, high-quality television and broadband Internet.
Murphy, a 14-year veteran of the company with firsthand experience working with members of the cooperative, was recently named Mountain’s assistant general manger.

He believes Mountain’s place in the community is as, if not more, vital than ever. For example, fast Internet access allows people to use distance learning to earn college degrees — without ever leaving home.
Farmers, many of whom rely on equipment decades old, can take advantage of online opportunities to buy and trade equipment, transactions that would be impossible without fast Internet service, Murphy says.

The cooperative also provides more than communications services. Mountain supports a range of community organizations. “I don’t think there’s a company that’s done more for the community and the youth than Mountain Telephone has,” he says.

Murphy, who earned a degree from Morehead State University, and his wife, Jenny, have one daughter, Olivia, 6.

Growing into the dream job

Steven Gullett 1

Meet Mountain’s plant manager Steven Gullett
By Noble Sprayberry

Steven Gullett wondered how far from home a career might take him. He grew up in West Liberty and attended Morgan County High School.

“I always thought it would be nice to stay home, but I didn’t know if it would be possible,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate.”

In February, he was named Mountain’s plant manager, stepping in for Rick Pelfrey, who retired. The job oversees 46 employees and many other responsibilities, including crews, lines, buildings and technology.

“In the past, we’ve had some real good leadership from our board, GM and our plant managers,” he says. “They’ve made good decisions over the years, and I hope to do the same.”
Gullett, 41, can rely on experience to guide his choices.

Seizing an opportunity
After graduating from high school, he began commuting 30 miles north to attend Morehead State University. “When I went to college, I thought that I would be a schoolteacher,” he says. “But when I started working summers at the co-op, they couldn’t get rid of me.”

His first tools were a mower and string trimmer. He kept grass clear at remote sites. “I got to see our entire service area, learning all the parts and the way it works,” Gullett says.

And he kept working. Eventually, he was offered a full-time job, but he would first need to complete a college degree. “I was able to get a degree in university studies, and then I started work (in 1998),” he says.

Over the years, Gullett worked in the Mountain departments responsible for service to homes, as well as businesses.

“My morals have stayed the same, and I’ve grown up,” he says. The company’s culture helped him develop a work ethic and an understanding that a job needs to be done well. “The way we work, we don’t have someone standing over us telling us how it’s done,” he says. “You have some control.”

Now, his days begin around 7 a.m., lasting late into the afternoon. “Being available is the most important aspect of the job,” he says. “When someone calls, I need to answer.”

Keeping pace with 
technology
During the years he grew into the job with Mountain, technology also developed at a blistering pace. “When I started, it was pretty much just dial-up Internet service, and it was foreign to everyone,” he says.

Mountain has evolved to meet the challenges of new technology and customer demand, offering services such as IPTV, which transmits a high-quality television signal through an Ethernet connection.

“Technology is always changing, and we have to change with it,” Gullett says. “And the only thing you can predict is that it’s going to keep changing. But, I think we have the staff to keep up.”

 

Directory Cover Photo Contest

Deadline is June 1

As any shutterbug worth his or her memory card knows, spring is a great time to take photos, which means it’s a great time to be thinking about your entry in the 2015 Mountain Telephone Directory Photo Contest.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Digital photos are preferred.
  • Photographer must be a cooperative member.
  • The subject of the photo must be located within the Mountain service area.
  • No individuals should be identifiable within the photo.
  • Photos considered by the judges to be inappropriate will be ineligible.
  • Photos not chosen for the directory cover will be automatically entered in the calendar contest.
  • Only two entries will be allowed per person.
  • Entry forms may be filled out online by going to www.mrtc.com or picked up in the office.

For more information, please visit www.mrtc.com or call 606-743-3121.

Calling all scholars!

Each year, an independent committee typically selects four students from Wolfe, Morgan, Menifee and Elliott counties and one student from Bath County to receive a $3,000 four-year scholarship to offset the cost of tuition and books. The scholarships are awarded based on grade point average and a written essay.

Mountain Telephone has awarded scholarships since 1988, when it first partnered with Morehead State University. Through the partnership, students receiving scholarships must attend MSU. Mountain will pay half of the scholarship funds, and MSU will cover the remainder. Over the past 25 years, Mountain has awarded scholarships to more than 400 students.

Application forms are mailed to every high school senior in all our served counties. If anyone has not received an application, they can print one at www.mrtc.com, or they can get one from their school guidance counselor. For more information call 606-743-3121.

Witnesses to progress

Rick Pelfrey and R.D. Stacy to retire from Mountain

Rick Pelfrey

Rick Pelfrey

Rick Pelfrey has been threatened, had phones thrown at him, guns pulled on him and dogs sicced on him. He has gotten cats down from trees and people off roofs, and he has removed dogs, chickens and goats from the inside of his truck. He has been chased by turkeys, flogged by game roosters and chased up utility poles by dogs.

“It’s all in a day’s work,” he says.

Pelfrey began working at Mountain 37 years ago on the right-of-way crew when he was just 19. Now 56 and serving as the plant manager, he has decided to call it quits. He will retire next month to spend more time with his family and to focus on Bethany Enterprise Baptist Church in West Liberty, where he has been the pastor since 2000.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work for a company that makes a difference in communities and cares for its employees and the people it serves,” he says. “I’ve worked with, supervised and managed some of the best people. To say I’ve been lucky would be an understatement. I have been abundantly blessed.”

Both Pelfrey and Plant Clerk Richie “R.D.” Stacy, have announced that they will be retiring from Mountain. They have a combined 72 years with the company.

Stacy acknowledges that this isn’t the same company he began working for in 1979. At the time, most customers had rotary phones, which won’t work with the current technology.

RD Stacy

RD Stacy

“Now it is digital and you must have a touch-tone phone,” he says.

Pelfrey began at Mountain earning $2.20 an hour working on the right-of-way crew clearing the roadsides for construction crews that would come behind them running telephone cable.

Minimum wage isn’t the only thing that has changed since Pelfrey joined Mountain. The Internet did not exist, and the idea that data could be sent at the speed of light along strands of glass was something of science fiction. But Pelfrey has overseen the implementation of Mountain’s fiber-to-the-home project, a historic construction project that gives Mountain’s members access to the most state-of-the-art data network available.

“I have seen the evolution from open wire to fiber optic cable, from rotary dial phones to smartphones,” he says.

In fact, when Pelfrey began at Mountain, the company didn’t have any modern construction machinery.

“I remember when we bought our first bucket truck and our first backhoe,” he says. “Before, we had lots of shovels — and we did lots of digging with those shovels.”

Today, Mountain has some of the most technologically advanced equipment available, and Pelfrey and Stacy have been integral parts of Mountain’s transformation from a phone company with four- and six-party lines to a modern telecommunications company that provides phone, television and Internet services to all of its customers.

Stacy says he remembers when Mountain began selling other products such as caller ID, television service and Internet.

“Many people thought there was no way we were going to make any money with those things,” Stacy says. They thought, ‘Who is going to buy Internet?’ Of course they were wrong.”

Pelfrey and Stacy have seen the region transform over the years, and helped rebuild following phone outages and major storms, including the tragic March 2, 2012, tornado that ravaged the area.

Stacy began working on the construction crew. He says one of the first things he did was work with a crew that was converting party lines to a single private line.

But Stacy knows how quickly things can change. He was working in 1987 on a pole when the cable snapped. His leg became entangled in the cable and left him dangling. The accident nearly severed his leg, and there was some concern if he would ever walk again. After taking about a year off to recover and undergo physical therapy, Stacy returned to work and is now the plant clerk.

Mountain General Manager Shayne Ison says both Pelfrey and Stacy will be missed.

“Rick and R.D. are valuable components of the Mountain family,” Ison says. “Their knowledge and expertise have helped bring this company into the modern age, and we wish them both the very best in all their future endeavors.”

Pelfrey lives in West Liberty with his wife, Donna. They have two grown daughters, Amber O’Neal and Lindsay Pelfrey.

Stacy lives in West Liberty with his wife, Mary Nell.

MRTC’s future is now

Residents of Mountain Telephone’s service area have something many larger cities only dream of — access to fiber optic technology and the most advanced data network available.

Matt Daniel checks fiber optic connections in MRTC’s Central Office.

Matt Daniel checks fiber optic connections in MRTC’s Central Office.

The fiber-to-the-home project is a historic undertaking, and MRTC is now putting the finishing touches on the massive buildout to ensure residents of Eastern Kentucky have access to cutting-edge Internet speeds.

To date, the project involves the installation of more than 1,900 miles of fiber optic cable throughout Bath, Elliott, Menifee, Morgan and Wolfe counties.

“We have never done anything of this magnitude,” says Mountain General Manager Shayne Ison. “The fiber-to-the-home project is historic and will provide benefits to the community for many years to come.”

A fiber cable consists of strands of glass that carry digital information as pulses of light. Unlike traditional copper lines, fiber can transmit data at amazing speeds across great distances with minuscule signal degradation. Access to the network is expected to bring economic and educational opportunities to the region.

Construction crews have completed the main buildout, and many MRTC customers already have access to fiber. Crews continue cutting other members over to the advanced network as part of a plan to upgrade everyone to fiber in the service area.

“Basically, the outside plant construction is complete,” Ison says. “We have a few ‘clean-up’ items remaining, and are working toward finalizing the project.”

Ison says the project initially focused on customers that had dial-up or DSL Internet service, but crews are now cutting others over to fiber, particularly those that add advanced services such as broadband and video.

The possibilities with fiber are endless. Fiber means faster Internet speeds, more video channels, high-definition television, enhanced voice telephone services, increased property values and plentiful opportunities for education and economic growth.

But Mountain’s future doesn’t end with fiber. MRTC has launched local television programming that includes local political forums, community rebuilding efforts, community events and church services. MRTC hopes to include area sporting events once school resumes this fall. Ison says he hopes to continue adding local TV offerings to meet customers’ needs. “Our hope is to continue to see our TV subscriber base grow while evaluating channel packages and plans.”

One of the best things about fiber network, Ison says, is that it not only gives MRTC members incredible access today, but it can also handle whatever technology is coming next.

“Our hope is to continue providing broadband plans to ensure our customers can access the latest apps and gadgets,” he says.

Mountain to hold Annual Meeting

All Mountain Telephone members are invited to attend MRTC’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, July 10, beginning at 5 p.m.

The meeting will be held at Morgan County High School. Registration and entertainment will begin at 5 p.m., and dinner will be served from 5 – 6:15 p.m. Drawings for door prizes will begin at 6:15 p.m.

A business meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m. More door prizes will be given away after the meeting.

For more information, call MRTC at 606-743-3121.

Rewarding students

Mountain Telephone helped 17 deserving high school seniors attend college by awarding scholarships totaling $51,000 this year.

From this year’s applicants, an independent committee selected four students each from Morgan, Menifee, Elliott and Wolfe counties and one student from Bath County with $3,000 each to offset the cost of tuition and books.

The scholarships are awarded based on grade point average and a written essay.

Mountain has awarded scholarships since 1988, when it first partnered with Morehead State University. Through the partnership, the students must attend MSU. Mountain will pay half of the scholarship funds, and MSU will cover the remainder. Over the past 25 years, Mountain has awarded scholarships to more than 400 students.

“We really want to reward hardworking and dedicated students in our community,” says Shayne Ison, general manager at MRTC. “Thanks to a partnership with Morehead State, we are able to accomplish this and give them the help they deserve.”

The scholarship amount was $2,500 per year from 1988 to 2009. Beginning with the 2010 graduating class, the scholarship amount increased to $3,000 per year.

This year’s winners are:

  • Olyvia Adkins, Elliott County High School
  • Desirae Bailey, Wolfe County High School
  • Nicholas Clevenger, Morgan County High School
  • Morgan Crouch, Bath County High School
  • Allegra Howard, Morgan County High School
  • Tabitha Holbrook, Elliott County High School
  • Sienna Ison, Elliott County High School
  • Noah Kelsey, Morgan County High School
  • Courtney Lewis, Wolfe County High School
  • Logan Nickell, Elliott County High School
  • Hannah Sexton, Morgan County High School
  • Madison Shepherd, Menifee County High School
  • Tamera Stidham, Menifee County High School
  • Sydney Taulbee, Wolfe County High School
  • Brooklyn Tolson, Wolfe County High School
  • Jacob Valerio, Menifee County High School
  • Andrew Wells, Menifee County High School

Fire Department donations

Mountain Telephone recently donated $1,000 to each area fire department to thank them for their service. Donations were awarded to fire departments at Blackwater,  Caney Valley, Hazel Green, Isonville, Menifee County, Olympia Springs, Peddler Gap, Salt Lick, Sandy Hook, West Liberty, White Oak, Morgan County and Wolfe County search and rescue teams, Wrigley, as well as 172, 504 and 519 departments.

MRTC began making the annual donations in 1998. Since that time, they have donated about $56,000.