Photography by Andrew Kaufmann.

Ken Hersh became president and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2016. The Bush Center is a non-partisan institution that houses the George W. Bush Library and Museum and the George W. Bush Institute. Prior to joining the Bush Center, Hersh had a long career as a private equity investor as the co-founder of NGP Energy Capital Management, which he helped start in 1988. Today, he serves as advisory partner to the firm. In addition, he serves as senior advisor to Carlyle Group’s natural resources division and sits on numerous boards, including the Texas Rangers Baseball Club, the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Dallas Citizens Council. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers.

“If you don’t have a strong, participatory and positive culture, you will fail.”

What is your “third place” in the neighborhood, after home and work?

Neuhaus Cafe at the Preston Royal Shopping Center.

What accomplishment are you proud of in your career?

Helping so many young professionals launch their careers, build a track record and become contributing members of the community, while providing good returns for our investors. 

What is the most challenging thing you’ve overcome in your career? 

Dealing with the volatility of the oil and gas industry. It’s hard building a business in an industry that people want to make obsolete. 

What do you look for in employees?

Passion and a drive to succeed.

Besides work, what are you proud of?

My family. I am proud of the young adults my children have become, and I am constantly in awe of the impact my wife, Julie, has on those around her.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Have fun, and don’t be dumb.

Who is your greatest influence?

The legendary investor Richard Rainwater. He was one of the most dynamic, intelligent individuals, with a special intellect that I ever met. He had a magnetic charisma.  He brought out the best in many. Being around him early in my career was a gift. I was able to watch someone take a genuine interest in people first, before thinking about a business investment. He formed high-quality relationships that were personally focused. That has stayed with me ever since. It was a tragic loss to lose him at such an early age.  

A strong leader is …

Being a worker, not just a delegator. My office runs on an open-door policy, and staff is encouraged to come by. I like to hear how their work is going, what their goals are and learn how I can help them stay accountable to those goals. My firm belief is if you don’t have a strong, participatory and positive culture, you will fail. 

What advice would you to give your younger self?

• It’s OK to have high standards.

• Demanding does not have to be demeaning. 

• Don’t forget to have fun and smile.

• Everything we do should be impactful, but we don’t have to do every impactful thing. 

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who cared.

What apps or gadgets do you find to be essential at work?

My AP News app, my MLB app and my outdated keyboard attachment for my iPhone 6.

How do you relax?

At any Rocky Mountain stream in the western United States, during a crisp, cool day, where I can match wits with a native trout, with a fly rod in my hand. 

What is the biggest problem that our community faces?

Besides traffic, our greatest challenge will be finding a way to inclusively grow as our population continues to expand.  

Given $1 million, how would you spend it on our community?

I would fix the potholes. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.5

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