By Karen Tyrrell
We are launching a new feature on the blog that will spotlight local philanthropists dedicated to giving back to the people and businesses of Jacksonville and its surrounding areas.
Our first philanthropist is a dear friend and a good part of the inspiration for starting this feature. Ron Autrey was CEO of Miller Electric Company, and since retiring has continued his contributions to his favorite charities while adding others along the way.
10 questions for Ron Autrey:
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Jacksonville and spent most of my youth living in the Isle of Palms Community on the Intracoastal Waterway at Beach Boulevard.
How do you choose the charities you support?
I look at the Federal 990 forms and see how and where they receive and spend their money. I evaluate the impact they have on the North Florida community.
Was there a moment when you were most touched by the charity work you’ve done, a life that has been most changed, or that you saw you were truly making a difference?
The most satisfying support that I have given has been anonymous. Paying a stranger’s rent or restaurant bill or electric bill, or just providing cash to someone that clearly needs it is satisfying. The cure for the pains of your own empathy is charity for others in need.
Who was/is the most influential person in your life and why?
My Father and Mother shaped me into the person I am today. My father’s work ethic and his belief in life-long education, along with a common-sense approach to everything, gave me a focused goal-oriented course in life. My mother instilled in us the loving and virtuous qualities of honesty, fairness, and integrity.
Did they lead you into your line of work? If not, how did your career progress?
In college life, I first thought I wanted to be a physician. That aspiration was tempered with some life lessons and reality checks. After serving a short tour of duty in the United States Army and receiving electronics training in the Army Security Agency, I approached my Dad about a job at Miller Electric Company. He was the 3rd CEO of what is now a 92-year-old electrical contracting company. I later became the 4th CEO.
What do you think led to being successful in life/business? (What lesson do you live by? Do you have a morning routine?)
(See answer above!) My Dad was not so much a mentor as he was an iconic, successful model of who I wanted to become. I like to rise early when it’s quiet. I read and reflect on life and pray for myself and others.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given? How has this influenced you/changed you?
In business, my Dad once told me “Don’t worry about making money, just don’t lose any.” As for employees and building loyalty, he said, “Always pay them just a little more than they think they are worth.” No matter what business or profession you are in, no matter how high tech, or blue-collar the job, it is the people that make a company successful. Whether you are selling ice cream, building algorithms, or skyscrapers, the people create the work, wealth, and the quality of the life we live.
What lesson do you hope to pass on to your children/employees?
Again, see answer above – I want them to learn and know that they create their destiny. Some luck for sure, and help from others, but most of all, it’s how hard you work, how much you learn, and how you treat other people that will bring you your reward.
Tell me about your childhood home (I’m in real estate and love houses).
We moved from a small Sears Kit house on the Northside in 1961, into a brand-new ranch home with a pool on the canal in the Isle of Palms.
Which home holds your most cherished memories?
The Isle of Palms for sure. We fished in the canals, the Intracoastal waterway, and the Chum Hole at the St. Johns River jetties. We camped in the woods off Beach Boulevard and rode our bikes to the Beach and the Jax Beach Pier. (and Nick’s Pizza!) We played golf at Selva Marina and the Jax Beach Municipal golf course. I surfed, every day, sometimes during school… (-;
What would be your perfect meal?
I cook! I make the best Osso Buco in the world. Saffron Risotto, Broccoli Rabe, and my wife’s Tiramisu…. And little Nozzole Chianti Classico Reserva, to wetta ma beak!