Kathryn Kunert is not one of those executives who sat down and mapped out a 40-year plan for their careers. She basically got her degree in public administration and set out to work hard. Her father had told her that doing so would open doors in the business world, and when the opportunity arose, she should walk through them. 

She set out to do her job at MidAmerican Energy Co., starting with a government affairs position, and the bosses kept asking her to do more. She rose higher and higher on the organizational chart as she approached this, her 20th year with the utility. Now, she’s vice president.

She admits she has a hard time persuading herself to take more than a four-day weekend for vacation, but she hopes one day to travel to Ireland and to Rome.  

Somehow, she finds time to run, play golf, bike and volunteer. “I’m a very competitive person,” and one who began playing cello in second grade, eventually joining her brother and sister to form the entire high school cello section in Mason City. She made the All-State orchestra twice, while also playing basketball and swimming competitively and serving as yearbook editor. She worked at an ice cream joint and at Hy-Vee to pay for school. 

“I feel like I’ve worked my whole life,” which she has, minus her first 13 years. “I am a crazy woman at times.” She likes to write, taking pride in her straightforward, blunt delivery. “There is no doubt what I’m thinking. I don’t encase it in fluff. “

“People say I’m different, beyond being goofy. I am just Kathryn. Friends back home say, ‘You’re still Kathryn.’ That’s the biggest compliment.” She still opens her own mail, refusing to get high and mighty. “I don’t ask people to do something that I wouldn’t do.” 

Kunert can be introspective. “I self-analyze a lot. I do care what people think. I have a very sensitive side, but I don’t show it much.”

She loves a new challenge, the innovation that her company has supported, and the great feeling that comes with customer satisfaction. But she doesn’t like treading water professionally, and she’ll have none of it. “I will not rest on my laurels.”

Three areas of influence

Kunert welcomes new challenges, whether they involve attending the FBI Academy or helping guide MidAmerican into a new age of heavy investment in wind energy. 

She appreciates helping others succeed, even as she works behind the scenes to make that happen. 

Her drive helps not only MidAmerican, but nonprofits such as United Way.