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In his blood

Conley Cathey’s telecom career spans decades

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September 25th, 2012

After 57 years in the telecommunications industry, Conley Cathey knows the business inside and out. You might even say it s in his blood. My family was in communications. My mother, father, and sister worked for Southern Bell, says Conley. I wanted a less structured environment, so I went to work for Standard Telephone, an independent company in Georgia. Conley started out in the stock room. In addition to providing supplies for the company s new dial service, he was responsible for disposing of insulators and magneto telephones. The earth around North Georgia has a wealth of telephone memorabilia buried in many locations, he says.

Adaptability key to his success

Conley remained in operations for 18 years, climbing poles and installing central office equipment. He took a military leave of absence during that time to join the Navy, where he served as an interior communications electrician. When Conley returned from the Navy, he resumed his work at Standard Telephone. There he met his future wife Linda, who was working as the executive secretary to the president. The company had a policy that husbands and wives couldn t work together, says Conley. After Linda and I married, we were both offered jobs at a telecommunications consulting firm in Maryland. Conley s career path diverged from operations to consulting. He specialized in separations and settlement matters. If you think of a call going from California to Georgia, different companies handle the call, and money has to be split between the companies, says Conley. Bell Operating Companies, now AT&T, was the major player in the field. My job was to make sure the smaller, independent companies got their piece of the pie. Conley was often called to testify before public utility commissions across the country, going to bat for the smaller companies. It seemed like a David and Goliath situation because the larger companies didn t want to yield anything to the smaller companies, he says. But we didn t take no for an answer. After several years with John Staurulakis, Inc. (JSI), in Maryland, Conley was transferred to Dallas to open a Texas division of JSI. Not long after, in 1986, he co-founded his own telecom consulting company with Roger Hutton, who worked for the Bell System. Conley was president of the newly formed Cathey, Hutton and Associates (CHA). In 1999, CHA merged with Hicks and Ragland Engineering to create CHR Solutions, a company that still flourishes today.

Change is a given

Fifty years ago, we were on the edge of telecommunications, moving from manual operation to automated systems, says Conley. We ve progressed through step-by-step switches to electronic, digital, and soft switches. Now there s broadband with data and video. Who knows what will come next? As the industry has changed, so has the work of CHR solutions. Our business has shifted more to software operations, billing solutions, and the like, says Conley. Even though he is no longer involved in the company s day-to-day operations, Conley still has an investment in the firm, visiting its Dallas office and corporate headquarters in Houston several times a year. I maintain my relationship with our telephone clients, though that s a small part of what we do today, he says.

Giving back

In 2006, Conley and Linda moved from their house in Carrollton toHighland Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas. The couple selected a spacious two-bedroom, two-bath Patterson-style apartment home with a den. Free from the responsibilities of home ownership, the couple now has more time to devote to their philanthropic efforts. Linda and I volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House and Happy Hill Farm in Granbury, says Conley. We re big sports fans, so we take groups from the Ronald McDonald House and Happy Hill to Ranger games, Dallas Stars games, and Cowboys games. We ve been blessed, and we want to give back.

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