It was Sears that brought Ed Powe to Frankfort from Chicago in 1980, but it was the community that has kept him here now for almost 40 years.
Powe, who was born in Canton, Ohio, worked for Sears for 24 years. He had various roles including customer service, merchandise manager and territorial vice president. In 1980, he was transferred to the Frankfort store to be general manager, a role he served as for eight years.
In 1988, he left to work for Kentucky State University. He retired after 14 years. He was the director of the office of Educational Outreach.
“I worked with high school students, bringing them on campus,” Powe said. “We also worked with minorities in highway construction and women in construction. We had a training program for them. We did a entrepreneurial business development institute that allowed us to work in eight Southern states to get minorities to work with federal highways.”
Throughout his careers with Sears and KSU, and now into retirement, Powe worked on the sidelines for the community volunteering his time in numerous non-profit organizations. He has served the Frankfort/Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, where in 1986 he became the first black person to serve as president. He continues to serve the Frankfort Kiwanis Club, Frankfort/Franklin County Community Council and Focus on Race Relations.
Powe is married to Janice Powe. They have a daughter, Kristafer Lynne Powe.
FRANK.: Why is community so important to you?
Powe: If you’re not happy at home or the place you work, you’re not going to be a happy individual. The community has to support those who live in the community and vice versa. I’ve always been interested to see what I could bring and how I could help the community. I’ve been involved in a lot of things. It gives me a good feeling.
FRANK.: What are some of your favorite programs you’ve been a part of?
Powe: I got involved in the chamber of commerce early on. When I was president, we were trying to find a program to keep the shoppers here. I came up with Frankfort First Capital Shopping. The intent was to get the merchants to offer something to keep the customers shopping and to encourage shoppers from going to Louisville or Lexington — to shop Frankfort First. You’d be surprised, you might find what you’re looking for here. I was pleased with that.
FRANK.: How long have you been involved with Kiwanis?
Powe: I’ve been in Kiwanis for 10 years. Kiwanis is a service organization made up of volunteers dedicated to improving our community. We do a lot of things, especially with the kids. We cook pancakes, grill hot dogs. If someone needs us in the community, we’re there. We can do several projects at the same time.
We have the Builders Club in the elementary schools and Key Club in the high schools, and we have a Circle K chapter at KSU. This is all about kids providing service to the community. I’m very proud of our Frankfort Kiwanis Club. We’ve started a lot of positive things.
FRANK.: What’s the main objective of Focus on Race Relations?
Powe: We’ve got some big problems not only here in Frankfort but in the nation and it’s starting to come to the forefront. You can’t turn on the television or radio without hearing about race relations. If we don’t do anything about it, we’re going to have big problems. We haven’t been this divided since the Civil War.
The organization is a diverse group of members raising attention to race relations in Frankfort. We want to have open and honest conversations about race relations. We’ve had a lot of success. We did a candidate forum where the only questions asked were about race relation issues.
We going to get the white and the black pastors to come together to see if we can get something going there. We have a curriculum committee to offer things to the school systems to tell the story of racial history of the African American.
FRANK.: What are your hopes for the future of Frankfort?
Powe: Frankfort needs positive change. It’s a great place. We have so many under utilized assets and we just seem to be maintaining the status quo. Things seem to be growing around us and we don’t seem to be growing that much. We need more dynamic leadership and full utilizations of all the assets we have.
The partnership between KSU and the community needs to be stronger. KSU has so much to offer and the city has so much to gain if we only had the right programs and attitude that could bring these changes about.
Downtown is changing. How can we make that more accessible to our young people. They need to be involved in the decision making process.
And, we have to improve race relations or it’s going to tear us apart.