AUGUSTA – Kenneth Priest II owns the last boat his father ever built.

It’s a 15-foot fiberglass model made around 1965 by Kenway Boats, the company his father started.

These days, Priest, now president of Kenway Corp., spends time restoring and cleaning the old boat.

It’s familiar work.

Priest, 67, remembers childhood summers spent helping his dad, Kenneth Priest Sr., build boats in the family’s Palermo garage.

Priest II attended the University of Maine, graduating with a degree in civil engineering. He took a job in Bucks-port as an engineer at St. Regis Paper but continued to help design products for his father’s business, which by the 1960s made fiberglass industrial products.

(His father changed the company name to Kenway Corp. when he stopped making boats in the 1960s.)

Priest said he was offered other jobs at paper companies, including high-level posts in New York City.

But in 1977 he quit the industry to work full time at Kenway. His father died in 1981.

In the years that followed, Priest oversaw Kenway’s relocation from Palermo to Augusta and helped Kenway diversify into products for industries like wastewater treatment, wind energy, bridge construction and coal-fired power.

In 2003, Priest brought Kenway full circle when the company began to build boats again.

In 2007, Kenway acquired boatbuilder Maritime Marine and earlier this year bought Southport Boatworks.

“We grew up in boats. Building boats is fun,” said Priest. “That’s the best part of the business.”

He also likes test driving them.

“Why else would you build them?” Priest joked.

Priest, who is married and lives in South China, isn’t ready to retire. But in two or three years he expects to “be doing less.”

“I love to work and I enjoy building things, and that’s what we do every day,” he said.

Priest said his son-in-law, Ian Kopp, will likely succeed him as CEO. Kopp is currently Kenway’s general manager and vice president.

Priest spends time at his camp on Moosehead Lake, where he fishes and hunts birds and deer. He also races his 35-foot sailboat in Rockland on Tuesday nights. Often he’s joined by some of his five children and 10 grandchildren.

“I enjoy the outdoors. That’s probably why I’m still in Maine,” he said.

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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