Dwight Keen has seen the world and likes Winfield just fine.
He has run his family's small oil and gas business for decades and recently was named chairman of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association.
He has a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees from Wichita State University, a law degree from the University of Kansas and was a first lieutenant in the Army stationed in Vietnam.
He served on the staff at the National Association of Securities Dealers in Washington, worked as a financial analyst for a major New York commercial bank that became part of J.P. Morgan Chase and was a partner in the Wichita law firm Triplett, Woolf & Garretson.
He has been the Kansas Securities Commissioner and served on the state Board of Tax of Appeals, now the Court of Tax Appeals.
But most of his time since the mid-1980s has been at the helm of Keen Oil, a company started by his father, Eddie, in 1953. The company has 103 oil and gas wells across south-central Kansas.
Keen, 67, is married to Lenore.
You were on track for a big career in Washington and New York. Why did you come back?
"I was born in Wichita and raised in the Wichita and McPherson areas and, I think when you travel beyond the borders of our state — and I would not proclaim that I'm totally unbiased — but when go out and live in other areas, you can really see the quality of life that we live in here.
"Living and working in New York was a great experience to have, but I wouldn't want a full lifetime of it."
What kind of business is Keen Oil?
"It's always been a family- owned gas and production company. Our operations have always been financed by income from our production. Throughout, we continually invest our earnings and maintain our production base. We are trying to make our operations as cost efficient as we can and basically keep the operations self-sustaining and environmentally sound."
Didn't you want to get bigger?
"Actually, no. Being efficient is to realize the limits of what you can do and realize the limits of excessive growth. With too much growth, there will be large-scale inefficiency that will creep down into the operation.
"We're very careful that any development is consistent with our overall strategy. Growth for the sake of growth is a blind alley through which many disasters can befall a company."
The oil industry is such an up-and-down business. Does it take someone different to want to be in this business?
"It requires great perseverance and great discipline. What people often don't realize is that we are price takers. We don't determine what the price will be for the commodities that we produce. We take the price that is based on a lot of factors way beyond our control.
"The one thing we have some modicum of control over is our costs, and not always then."
What are you going to advocate as head of KIOGA?
"We are going to do the same sort of things that we've advocated from the outset of the organization: to advance and protect the industry.
"Given its footprint as one of the three largest industries in the state, we think that we can simultaneously advance the industry and the Kansas economy and its job-creating ability. That is first and foremost.
"We are dedicated to bringing the state and the nation the most reliable, affordable and cost-efficient energy that is available today and into the foreseeable future."
What's your feeling about alternative energy?
"I'm an all-of-the-above kind of guy. We want to see all kinds of energy, especially ones produced domestically, to reduce the need for foreign oil.
"But one of the major concerns as a citizen is whether any energy source is being subsidized. It doesn't allow the interplay of supply and demand. When you have something subsidized and then the subsidy goes away, so does the source."
What do think about the land rush by large oil companies in southern Kansas?
"I'm a believer in capitalism. These wells that are being drilled, these horizontal wells, when you are rolling the dice with those kinds of stakes, you should be pretty well capitalized.
"We have significant large independents both from Kansas and from outside the state. I think it's a plus all the way around for the state. It's a win-win as far as I'm concerned."
But doesn't it raise land lease prices for the small producers?
"For the small operator, there's no question it causes problems, but it's part of our economic system. so I have no problem with it."