At its 113th Annual Conference in Toronto, the International District Energy Association (IDEA) presented the Norman R. Taylor Award to longtime member, Ken Smith, President and CEO of Ever-Green Energy.
The Norman R. Taylor Award, named after a former industry executive known for treating people with respect and humility, is the highest individual honor IDEA confers. IDEA President and CEO Rob Thornton presented the award to Ken at the Annual Chair’s Banquet, the kickoff event of the IDEA's 113th Annual Conference and Trade Show in Toronto, recognizing his career achievements in the district energy and tireless advocacy for IDEA and the industry.
Ken grew up on a small farm in central Minnesota. He has been known to say his family did survival farming, which is literally growing what they needed to survive. His first year of school was in a one room schoolhouse down the road from the family farm. From those humble roots, he has built a career and traveled the world, but never forgetting from where he came, where humility and work ethic were the order of the day.
In high school he would have liked to play football, but chores and responsibilities of a family farm left no time for spring practice or double sessions. He did develop a passion and a talent for singing in the chorus, which continued throughout his life and to this day, as he has been active in his church and community.
He attended North Dakota State University and received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1985 in Electrical Electronics Engineering, and that is where he met the love of his life, his devoted wife Julie. He later earned a Masters in Business Administration from University of St Thomas in Minneapolis, MN.
He began his career in 1985 with Black & Veatch in their Kansas City office, advancing steadily over 16 years. In 2001, he joined Stanley Consultants in Minneapolis, progressing to the position of Vice President. He is a Registered Professional Engineer in 7 states.
In 2006, he began his career at District Energy St Paul, progressing through roles in senior management to ultimately being named President & CEO of District Energy St. Paul and their related organization, Ever-Green Energy. Under his leadership, District Energy St Paul has undergone tremendous growth, continuously evolving through technical innovation and investment, ever mindful of their customers and diligent in pursuit of efficiency and environmental stewardship. Throughout his tenure, the organization, its people, and culture have been tremendously active as members, participants and supporters of IDEA.
He follows in the footsteps of two previous CEO’s of District Energy St Paul, both of whom were honored as Norm Taylor Award Winners. Hans Nyman in 1990, for whom the central plant in St. Paul is named, and Anders Rydaker in 2007, both who also served as Board Chair of IDEA during their careers.
To call him an advocate or an evangelist for district energy would be an understatement. He has literally traveled throughout North America and around the world on behalf of our industry. In his role as CEO of District Energy St Paul or as Chair of IDEA, Ken visited countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, and United Arab Emirates to share his expertise or lead a delegation seeking insight on community energy development with the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota.
During his tenure on the IDEA Executive Committee and as Board Chair, he helped cultivate a culture of inclusion and collaboration, even when his stated mission was to “bring sexy back to district energy”.
In our estimation, no one has testified, presented or served as a panelist with more frequency or passion over the course of a career. His engagement, enthusiasm and commitment to education have paved the way for all of us, enriching our industry and advancing IDEA as a professional organization. IDEA encourages everyone working in this industry to join us in congratulating the 2022 Norm Taylor Award winner, Mr. Ken Smith of Ever-Green Energy.