Appalachian Power’s longtime spokesman John Shepelwich recently announced he will be stepping down early next year. Shepelwich will be retiring from a company he has been a part of for more than 15 years and ending a career in communications that has spanned nearly a half-century.
Shepelwich got his start in 1972 as a news reporter for KWTX Broadcasting Company in Waco, Texas. When he took the job, the television station was filming in black and white, which gave him a taste of TV’s early history. In a short time, the station moved to color film and then to videotape.
“Things moved very fast there,” Shepelwich said of the changes.
After a brief stint as the television news services coordinator for Southern Illinois University, Shepelwich moved again to Tulsa, Oklahoma as the news assignments editor for KOTV-TV. It was there that he met his wife of 40 years, Katie.
In an effort to have regular hours after getting married, Shepelwich took a position as a communications manager for the Public Service Company of Oklahoma in 1980. “We needed some stability,” he said.
In addition, the change allowed Shepelwich to see a different side to one of the bigger stories to come out of the area at the time. Plans were underway to construct a new nuclear power plant in Inola, Oklahoma.
Making the switch from being a member of the news media to public relations side gave Shepelwich a unique view of the issue, he said. He had a better idea of what reporters wanted to know, as well as provide them with information that he knew they were not getting.
In 1994, Shepelwich became the advertising manager for Central and South West Corporation. When the company was purchased by American Electric Power in 2000, Shepelwich moved to Richmond. AEP is the parent company of seven different regional utilities, including Appalachian Power.
Shepelwich handled corporate communications for the company for six years before moving to more local communications for Appalachian Power in Roanoke.
During his time at Appalachian Power, Shepelwich has kept himself informed on a variety of company aspects, including regulatory issues, transmission line concerns and power generation. One of the biggest power generators Shepelwich deals with is Smith Mountain Dam.
Because it has such an impact on the community, Shepelwich said he spends 20% percent of his time working with the media on issues related to Smith Mountain Dam. He said he spends around 5% of his time at other lakes and hydro plants since they have less impact on the community.
Shepelwich admitted to falling in love with Smith Mountain Lake during his time with Appalachian Power. He even looked into moving to the area for a brief time. “I love the people out there,” he said of the lake community.
With his retirement, Shepelwich will return full time to his home in Asheville, North Carolina, adding that he will be happy to be home more with his wife and nearby children and grandchildren. “We are looking forward to being together.”
So far, Shepelwich has made no plans for what to do with his time once he retires. As a fan of tennis and photography, Shepelwich said he plans to continue doing both. He also plans to do some volunteer work in Asheville.
“I’ve even played with the idea of learning an instrument,” he said.
Shepelwich’s last day at Appalachian Power will be in February.