“Why Crozet” is a long-running monthly feature about everything that makes Crozet a positive place to live, and the people who serve the community in ways large and small. For July, we feature a local man known for his generosity, as well as his success in building a thriving business. Most of his charitable works are done behind the scenes, without any publicity, but this month, the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department acknowledged Chuck Kennedy by choosing him as the grand marshal of the Independence Day Parade.
Picking Chuck Kennedy as the grand marshal of the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department’s Independence Day parade was an easy choice. “He’s been a long-time friend and supporter,” said Crozet Chief Gary Dillon. “We’ve been thinking about him for a while.” Firefighters can rely on Kennedy––the owner of Crozet’s Kennedy Electric––to respond quickly to any of the department’s needs.
Still, Kennedy was completely surprised by the honor. To him, it seems natural to support local emergency services. “We are so fortunate for the outstanding fire and rescue crews we have,” he said. “If they need anything, I’m there.”
Although Kennedy rightfully puts the needs of vital community services at the top of his list, he feels the same way about all his customers, he said. He hates to let them down. “There are days when we show up for a two-hour job and we find it’s a two-day job. Then that affects all the other calls we’ve scheduled. It’s my worst nightmare.” He said he’s constantly improving ways to give people accurate information about when electricians will arrive, and a new system has helped with that. “We’re not perfect, though,” he said. “With two people in the office and seven electricians, it’s still a challenge.”
Kennedy was born in Covesville and attended school with Crozet students at Albemarle High School, before Western was built. “So, many of my clients are also my friends,” he said. He moved to Crozet in the late ’70s, after marrying his wife Becky, a Crozet native and also a high school classmate. He knew from a young age that he would not be suited for a conventional college degree and a desk job. “I would absolutely hate spending my days confined to an office,” he said. Luckily for him, there were a number of on-the-job training opportunities in town at that time.
Kennedy worked for Morton Frozen Foods, Del Monte and Conagra, and he was offered paid schooling as well as learning on the job. He took full advantage of any educational benefits, attended classes at Piedmont Virginia Community College and CATEC, and earned licenses as an electrician as well as in plumbing and HVAC.
“I’m concerned that more young people don’t consider the trades as a way of life,” he said. “Many of them go into debt for college and end up in jobs they hate.” There’s a shortage of electricians, he said, and Kennedy Electric is always hiring and trying to increase the benefits offered to employees.
It was the early ’90s when Kennedy decided to go into business for himself. “I just wanted to be my own boss and set my own hours,” he said, not realizing those hours might be early morning until late at night. “I suspected I’d do fine with the marketing as well as the electrical work. I’m never at a loss for words.”
Long-time friend Carol Hill said his ability to make people feel at ease was obvious even in high school. Not only was she a classmate, but she takes credit for introducing him to Becky. “He was just kind-hearted and loveable, always joking,” she said. “Everyone liked him.” Albemarle hadn’t been integrated for very long in the early ’70s, but he was friends with everyone, she remembers. Through the years, he’s helped with the restoration of her church, Piedmont Baptist, as well as supporting the historic Black church financially. “I’ll call him when we need something, and he’ll tell me to stop by the house and pick up a check. We’ll talk for a while and catch up.”
Kennedy said he’s found many new friends as Crozet has grown and expanded, and he keeps an open mind about “old” versus “new” Crozet. “If you take the time to get to know people, you’ll mostly find them interesting and likeable,” he said. His hard work, generosity, and ability to value all people has rewarded him in many ways besides his most recent honor, and he said he’s grateful for the whole Crozet community. “I know this will sound corny to some,” he said, “but I just like to help people.”