Angels Watching Over Me: Kenneth J. Parker Attributes his Ascension from Janitor to Senior Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs with Pepco Holdings, As a Spiritual Connection
By Sharon Moore Jackson
To understand Kenneth J. Parker, the man, you must first understand the road traveled by Kenneth J. Parker, the young boy. Kenneth is the ninth of 10 children. His mother died when he was 2 years old. His father subsequently abandoned the family for Florida, after his mother’s passing, leaving Kenneth and his siblings alone in New Jersey. Shortly thereafter, Kenneth’s father, while still living in Florida, was fatally shot. The deaths of both his parents changed Kenneth’s life dramatically, placing him and several of his younger siblings in the New Jersey Foster Care System for 8 years.
Kenneth said, “his eldest sister, Patricia, 20 years his senior, “was a guardian angel who never left his side, even to this day”. She remained in constant contact with them and eventually was able to get them out of the foster care system. Patricia was a young woman herself, recent graduate from college, but she took on the role of guardian, caring for her siblings until they could move on to college and other endeavors. Kenneth says, “family is very important to me and that close-knit bond is the tie that continues to hold my siblings and I together”.
The road to Delaware State University, where Kenneth majored in Early Childhood Education, began in 1981. In 1986, Kenneth decided to go to work for Atlantic City Electric cutting lawns in the summer intern program. Kenneth said, “I decided not to go back to school in my senior year and finish my degree, because there was a permanent job I wanted to obtain within the company”. That job, Kenneth declares, “was the janitor’s position”. Even though there were full-time, merit employees eligible to be considered for the job over Kenneth if they chose to apply, an older employee within the company, who had been keeping a watchful eye on Kenneth, strongly suggested that he make application. Kenneth stepped out on faith and submitted his application. When the deadline to submit the employment application for the janitor’s position had expired, Kenneth learned that he was the only applicant, and he was offered the position.
Since 1986 to date, Kenneth has been with the same electric company. Presently, he is the Senior Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs for Pepco Holdings and has been in this position since September 2012. From landscaping to janitorial, serving on the school board and numerous promotions along the way, Kenneth’s steady rise has landed him in leadership positions throughout the organization, as well as a voice in the board room. Kenneth says “there’s always been individuals who have provided advice and counsel for me”. One individual that holds a special place in his heart is his sister’s friend, who worked in the electric company. Kenneth recalls that his sister’s friend became so frustrated because he did not know how to navigate the system. Instead, he put all his hopes and dreams in Kenneth, sharing information on the summer programs and providing sage advice along the way. Kenneth remembers him fondly, stating he would say, “I believe I can get you in the door as a summer intern, but you must do the work”.
Such encouraging words and acts of kindness from family and acquaintances alike, have helped shape and guide Kenneth forward, coupled with a strong work ethic. Having a strong work ethic is not enough. Kenneth soon realized he needed to develop relationships and a network, and so he did. There has always been somebody, Kenneth says, “an angel, divine intervention, who showed up and helped me every step of the way”.
Kenneth completed his degree in 1990 and moved forward with Pepco and has been with the company since 1986. His trajectory continues to soar, as he serves as the Senior Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs for Pepco Holdings, an Exelon Corporation. Kenneth understands that he is blessed and that he has not forgotten the road he has traveled and the lives that have been impacted along the way. He says he uses his life story as lessons learned, to help others.
He is very passionate about young people in the foster care system and both his sister Patricia and his wife Sheri, firmly suggested he broaden his outreach beyond foster care stating there are a lot of kids out there who need help. Kenneth believes, “it is important that we help young people realize their lives can be much more than what they perceive it to be, but we must show up to share our experiences and help them”.
The culture of any organization speaks to how it treats its employees, social responsibility, community engagement and just overall concern and well-being of its people. Under Dave Velazquez, President & CEO, leadership, Pepco Holding’s management team has set the right tone and culture for the organization. Kenneth is part of that process. He leads a team over 100, including three regional presidents reporting directly to him, covering the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. In terms of supplier diversity and inclusion, Kenneth states “we’re tracking how much we’re spending and with whom”. Exelon’s philosophy is clear, “what are we doing to develop employees and how are we getting people prepared for opportunities?” Moreover, the President and CEO chairs the PHI Diversity & Inclusion Council, that’s commitment, says Kenneth.
On the social responsibility and corporate relations side, headed by Debbi Jarvis, Kenneth further states “we are very committed to Education, STEM, Economic Development (jobs), Social Services Programs, Emergency Response Programs, etc.” Our efforts are at the grass roots, whether helping the homeless to teaching children. Furthermore, we support and encourage volunteerism in terms of our employee base at every level, whether it is in leadership, serving on boards or hands-on grass roots activity programs. Exelon is also a big proponent of programs and making sure the dollars they spend touches the people in need. More specifically, the Exelon merger commits $50M over the next 10 years cumulative from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware to New Jersey. Exelon is strongly committed to the $50M baseline, Kenneth said.
That dollar amount speaks to Exelon’s overarching commitment. Kenneth says there is a great future in store for individuals seeking to make a career and impact within this organization. It’s refreshing to see and hear that this is part of their DNA that you have a great future; we have certainly come a long way.
What’s on the horizon for Pepco Holdings?
Kenneth says Pepco Holdings will continue to:
1 Focus on safety, reliability and excellent customer service;
2 Making sure the lights stay on and if they do go out, get them back up quickly;
3 Innovation –new ideas/concepts to save energy;
4 Energy efficiency;
5 Diversity and Inclusion; and
6 Partnerships – economic development and community engagement.
Kenneth concluded by saying “he is inspired by helping others and knows he is blessed. Serving and being of service is what we are all called to do”.