OUR EXECUTIVE TEAM

KEN COGGINS

KEN COGGINS

DAVID LAX

DAVID LAX

DR. THOMAS POOL

DR. THOMAS POOL

ANDY ASK

ANDY ASK

KIRK MCCALEB

KIRK MCCALEB

TONY VALASEK

TONY VALASEK

KEITH PAYNE

KEITH PAYNE

PETE EIDEN

PETE EIDEN

LARRY GRATE

LARRY GRATE

SHAUN GUY

SHAUN GUY

CEO & Chairman of the Board

Ken Coggins

Ken is a founding partner of PREMIER and has been serving as an executive leader since it was founded in 1991. During Ken's tenure, he has supported technical delivery, business development, and operations. Presently, Ken is focused on supporting and developing the next generation of leadership, to ensure that the potential for PREMIER’s future is being realized.

 

Ken began his career in 1980 supporting and improving manufacturing systems for General Motors. He joined a system integrator as a project engineer in 1983. His responsibilities grew into project and operations management. In 1988, he was selected for the position of Vice President of Regional Operations.

 

Ken is involved in his local church and community. He actively supports local charities and youth athletic organizations. Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Ken relocated to the Nashville, TN area in 1988 where he and his family reside.

 
 

President

David Lax

David was recently promoted to President in 2019. Prior to this, David has served in various roles of senior leadership since 2011. David’s primary responsibilities are oversight and leadership of operations and all corporate functions which includes the management of the company's financial activities.

 

David graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and began his career at PREMIER as a controls engineer in 1998, where he developed an invaluable understanding of the core fundamentals of PREMIER's business. He became a key implementation specialist and project manager, playing a leading role in PREMIER’s business expansion into the food and beverage industry.

 

David received his MBA from MTSU in 2006 and an M.S. in Finance from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management in 2009. David claims roots in West Tennessee where he credits his values to his grandmother and his Christian upbringing. He currently lives in Nashville, TN. When he isn't working, he can be found on a golf course, a ski slope, a yoga studio or cheering on the Commodores at a Vanderbilt sporting event.​

 

Vice President of Operations

Andy Ask

Andy was promoted to Vice President of Operations in 2019. Andy is responsible for providing oversight and leadership of PREMIER’s operations including the manufacturing, engineering, and quality groups.

 

Andy joined PREMIER in 2016 and engaged in several roles in the areas of project management, account management, business development, and manufacturing operations. Prior to his time at PREMIER, he spent 16 years with The Timken Company in both technical and management roles. Andy began his career at Timken as a Systems Engineer working on engineering, MES, and business systems and then progressing into management roles including Lean, Materials, and Operations Management. Prior to that Andy spent 6 years with Striker Systems as a Software Engineer and Production Manager.

Andy grew up in the small town of Glenwood, MN, where he worked in the family business with his father, learning the metal fabrication trade and the values essential to operating a small business. He graduated from Bemidji State University in 1993 with a B.S. in Computer Science. Andy is certified in Lean Leadership and is a Project Management Professional (PMP). He and his wife have three children and reside in Nolensville, TN. Outside of work, Andy enjoys spending time with family, wood working, welding, hiking and is an avid golfer.​

 

Vice President of Business Development 

Kirk McCaleb

Kirk is based out of our corporate office in Nashville, TN and manages PREMIER’s manufacturing business unit. His focus during the founding and growth of PREMIER has been in the areas of sales, new business development and vendor relationships.

 

In 1981, Kirk graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.E. in Chemical Engineering. After graduation, he joined the Allen-Bradley Company in Milwaukee, WI and completed their sales training program in 1982. He was assigned to their New Orleans office as a Sales Engineer. After working in Allen-Bradley’s Nashville sales office he was hired by Stuart C. Irby Company to help launch a new electrical distribution office in Nashville. In 1988, he and Ken opened a Nashville branch for an Atlanta-based system integrator. In January of 1992, Kirk joined PREMIER.

 

Kirk is a seventh generation Tennessean and resides in Franklin, TN. He has three daughters that are his primary focus outside of work.

 

Director of Organizational Development & Quality

Tony Valasek

Tony leads the organizational development, quality assurance and leadership development efforts for PREMIER. Tony joined PREMIER in 2009 as the Engineering Manager.

 

Tony has over 25 years of engineering and manufacturing experience in diverse, international industries with various industry leaders such as Oberg Manufacturing, Tyco Electronics, and Triumph Aerospace. Tony holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Penn State University, an MBA from the University of North Carolina and a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in International Business from Northcentral University. Tony is a certified project management professional, a certified MBTI practitioner as well as a U.S. Patent holder.

 

Tony works out of our Smyrna, TN office and lives in Murfreesboro, TN with his wife and two sons. Tony enjoys camping and hiking, reading, recreational shooting, and playing video games with his sons.

Director of Engineering 

Dr. Thomas Pool (Tommy)

Tommy serves as the Director of Engineering for the Atlanta Business Unit, located in Marietta, GA.  Tommy has the responsibility for the performance and career development at this location.  He is responsible for oversight and leadership for the Atlanta office, building and encouraging the PREMIER team, and promoting customer relationships through quality engineering. 

 

Tommy joined PREMIER during the acquisition of FeedForward in 2020; he served as a key member during the integration process.  Tommy had been serving as Feed Forward’s Executive Vice President since 2012  after a long career in control systems design and implementation.   He worked for Kliklok-Woodman for 17 years designing motion control systems for packaging and product handling machinery.  Tommy graduated from the University of Florida in 1989 with a Ph.D. in Agricultural Engineering after presenting his dissertation, “Motion Control of a Citrus-Picking Robot”.  He received his B.S. from the University of Georgia and M.S. from Texas A&M University, both in Agricultural Engineering with control systems focus.

 

Tommy was raised in Tifton, GA and has lived in the Atlanta area for over 20 years.  He is an avid water skier and general lake bum.  He loves gardening, machinery, and doing anything that involves being pulled behind a boat. 

 
 

Director of Engineering

Keith Payne

Keith serves as the Director of Engineering with responsibility for project delivery oversight, employee performance, and career development. Keith also represents the engineering team’s perspective in recruiting, best practices and corporate planning and development.

 

Keith graduated from the University of Memphis with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and from Christian Brothers University with a Master’s in Engineering Management. He is also a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Tennessee. Keith has over 30 years of control system engineering and project management experience including Kimberly-Clark, Wright Industries (Doerfer Companies), Curtis H. Stout (Rockwell Automation) and several other System Integrators across multiple platforms and industries. This provides a unique perspective on his current role. Keith joined PREMIER in 2003 as a controls engineer and quickly started managing large projects. He assumed his current director role in April of 2016.

 

Keith was born in Memphis, TN and has lived in the middle Tennessee area for over 15 years. He and his wife have two sons. Keith enjoys golf, live music, and outdoor activities.

 

Director of Human Resources

Pete Eiden

Pete joined PREMIER in 2013 as Human Resources Manager. In this role, Pete provides leadership and support for all areas of HR including Talent Acquisition, Employee Relations, Training & Development, Benefits, Compliance, and Safety. Prior to joining PREMIER Pete held various HR leadership roles in both the Manufacturing and Technology industries.

 

Pete was raised in Tampa, FL where he attended Saint Leo University earning both a B.A. in Psychology in 2004 and a Masters of Business Administration degree in 2007. Pete also holds certifications as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP). He and his wife relocated to the Nashville area in 2011.

 

Director of Technology

Larry Grate

Larry joined PREMIER in 2007 as a senior controls engineer working in the Decatur, AL office.  In 2016 he was promoted to Director of Technology and continues to serve in that role.

 

Larry has been working in the industrial automation industry for over 30 years delivering solutions in a variety of industries using DCS platforms, PLC’s, and various SCADA systems.  For the last several years he has been working in OT network convergence leveraging ICS data to improve operational efficiency for our customer base.  This has included architecting solutions to secure OT/ICS networks to related cybersecurity standards from identified threats.  Larry is a professional engineer registered in the state of Georgia and holds several Cisco certifications as well as a GICSP. 

 

Outside of work Larry enjoys working with young people through his church.

 

Director of Business Development

Shaun Guy

Shaun is responsible for providing insight and leadership to PREMIER’s business development and account management team.

 

Shaun joined PREMIER in January 2020 after a twenty two year career with Rockwell Automation where he held various sales leadership and global business development roles across multiple industry segments. Shaun also has previous engineering and management experience with a systems integrator and diverse manufacturing companies including Lever Brothers, Continental Can and General Motors.

Shaun grew up in a small coastal town in North Wales UK, in 1988 he graduated from Chester College with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Shaun and his family are proud first generation Tennessean’s and live in Franklin TN, outside of work he enjoys motorcycle restoration and riding and playing guitar

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