Working for Washington Gas is close to being a rite of passage for Karen Tracy’s family, longtime residents of Washington, D.C. Two of Tracy’s uncles worked for Washington Gas in the early 1940s and recommended her father, Ken, apply here. Karen’s ex-husband, Gregory Boone, and much later, her daughter, Brittany Boone, joined the company, also.
“I was so proud of my daughter when she got a job here,” said Karen. “She has a college degree from Morgan State University and needed something with good pay and benefits. My father was very proud that both of us worked here. He came over to our Springfield office one day to go to the credit union and ran into me and Brittany walking from opposite directions. He just hugged us both.”
Ken Tracy’s name is legendary within Washington Gas. He started with the company in 1946 as a laborer in the Transportation and Distribution department. During his remarkable 40-year career with Washington Gas, he became the company’s first Black compressor operator, one of its first Black inspectors, the first Black foreman, the company’s first Black union officer, a lobbyist and, in 1986, became Washington Gas’ first Black vice president. He directed the company’s Community A airs department until his retirement in 1987. A company article said Ken’s promotion to foreman in 1961 “caused quite a ruckus.” He was quoted as saying, “I was moving up right along with my white peers. is is an equal opportunity company if ever there was one.” He credited strong mentors, too, who advocated for more diversity among the management ranks at Washington Gas.
“Nobody gets anywhere by himself,” said Ken. “You’ve got to have God and you’ve got to have friends. I have both.”
After Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968 and widespread rioting in Washington, D.C., Washington Gas worked to build stronger relationships with the African American community. The company selected Ken to represent Washington Gas and he participated in the transition toward home rule for the District of Columbia. He established strong ties and remained close friends with many local leaders, including then Mayor Walter Washington. Ken died in June 2012 at age 84.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Karen Tracy graduated from Ballou Senior High School. After working for the federal government, she followed her father’s advice and joined Washington Gas in May 1988.
“Washington Gas was paying more and had better benefits,” she said. “My husband worked for a federal agency, also, and had already moved to Washington Gas. I should have beaten him here but didn’t. I knew Washington Gas was a good company because of how my dad started at the bottom digging ditches and worked his way up the ranks.”
Karen’s first job with the company was as a receptionist in the Marketing department at Washington Gas’ Spring eld, Va., Operations Center. Next, she moved to our Southeast Field Operations Station in Forestville, Md., where for two years she worked on a project changing out old steel pipelines to more efficient plastic pipelines. She then worked in sales at Washington Gas’ East Station next to Maritime Plaza, all the while following her dad’s sage advice to work hard and continuously improve herself so that she would be ready when opportunities presented themselves. In 2004, she earned an associate’s degree from Prince Georges Community College. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management in 2006 and, in June 2015, she obtained a masters’s Degree, in Project Management from Strayer University. Today, she is back at Washington Gas’ Spring eld Center supervising the Inside Sales representatives who process gas service requests through our 703-941-HEAT line and our company’s website, washingtongas.com, for single-family homeowners and small projects in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
“I am constantly trying to make myself more marketable within the company and I’m also an advocate for education,” she said. “I strongly believe that when you have knowledge, no one can take that away from you. I am also hoping that younger family members who saw me go back to school will get inspired to do so as well. As extra incentive, I told them about an elderly person in my MBA class.”
Karen said WGL’s tuition reimbursement program helped tremendously with college costs.]
“Washington Gas reimburses up to 75 percent of what we pay in tuition, providing we maintained at least a C average,” she said. “I encourage everyone who hasn’t done so, to continue their education and take advantage of this benefit if your company offers it.”