Kevin Akers, a 56-year-old Owensboro native, has been named president and chief executive officer of Dallas-based Atmos Energy Corp., effective Oct. 1.

He was formerly the company's executive vice president.

Kim Cocklin, another former Owensboroan, will continue as executive chairman of the board.

Akers' promotion followed the decision of Mike Haefner to resign as president and CEO, effective Sept. 30, citing health reason.

He plans to retire on Jan. 1.

Akers, a graduate of Apollo High School and the University of Alabama, joined the company in 1991 as an engineer in Owensboro.

Mayor Tom Watson has known Akers since Watson was coaching Little League baseball and Akers was a second baseman and shortstop on an opposing team.

"I had a lot of interaction with him and his parents and grandparents," Watson said Thursday. "He was a very hard worker and had great family support. Kevin had a great work ethic, always trying to get better -- just like in his professional life."

He said, "It has been great to watch him climb the corporate ladder of success with a great company like Atmos. He once again proves if you want to get ahead in the gas and energy business, Owensboro is the training ground for that. Our energy corporate citizens don't get the credit they deserve for all they do in our community. We are truly blessed to have them here."

Candance Castlen Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, said, "Kevin's appointment demonstrates the importance the Greater Owensboro region continues to be in developing talent in one of the most important economic sectors in our country. We are so proud of him. We wish him much success and we continue to be grateful for Atmos' commitment to Owensboro and for the unlimited impact that the energy sector makes in our regional economy."

Before becoming executive vice president in November, Akers served as senior vice president for safety and enterprise services for Atmos from January 2017 through October 2018.

Prior to that, he served as president of the Kentucky/Mid-States Division from May 2007 through October 2016 and as president of the Mississippi Division from 2002 to 2007.

Earlier, Akers led the Mississippi Valley Gas transition team for Atmos while serving as vice president of Northern Region Operations for the company's Louisiana Division.

From 1997 to 2001, he was vice president of Eastern Region Operations for Atmos' Kentucky Division.

Prior to 1997, Akers was a large-volume sales engineer and as an assistant district manager in Kentucky.

From 1989 to 1991, he was senior gas engineer for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

The announcement said that the Atmos board "has long planned for this succession."

Haefner said, "Kevin is a gifted leader with the majority of his nearly 29 years at Atmos Energy in senior leadership roles. He and I have worked side-by-side, and he has the leadership ability and deep industry experience to continue our safety-driven investment strategy."

Atmos reported Thursday that its operating income increased $19 million to $656.3 million for the nine months ending June 30.

It was $637.3 million for the same period last year.

Cocklin became executive chairman of the board on Oct. 1, 2017.

Before that he was the company's chief executive officer from October 2015 through September 2017.

Cocklin had also served as president and chief executive officer from October 2010 through September 2015, after serving as president and chief operating officer from October 2008 through September 2010.

He joined Atmos Energy in 2006, as senior vice president of regulated operations, after serving as senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer for Piedmont Natural Gas Company in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In 2003, Cocklin, former senior vice president and general manager of Williams Gas Pipeline-SouthCentral in Owensboro, moved to the Piedmont post.

He began his career with Owensboro-based Texas Gas Transmission Corp. in 1984, and transferred to Houston in 2002, to become senior vice president for planning, development and regulatory affairs for Williams Gas Pipeline.

Later that year, he became senior vice president for customer service at Williams Gas Pipeline in Houston.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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