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Associated Electric Cooperative honors 12 local employees with prestigious Excel awards

SPRINGFIELD, MO – Twelve employees at the headquarters of Associated Electric Cooperative, Springfield, were among those honored this week at the 24th annual employee recognition awards ceremony at Associated Electric Cooperative’s Springfield headquarters.

The annual Excel awards are peer-nominated recognitions of employees who have excelled in their crafts, vocations and professions or in specific functions.

Ronda L. Earnhart of Battlefield, senior administration assistant, is the recipient of the 2017 Excel Award for Employee of the Year in an Administrative Field. Earnhart, who works in the Accounting and Finance Division, coordinates important meetings between Associated and its lenders and business partners, bond rating agencies in New York City, as well as executives’ and division’s schedules and events.

A nominator described Earnhart as the “spark plug of energy with a consistent positive attitude that spreads throughout the division. She makes the daily work more enjoyable by bringing her special ‘fuel’ of energy, optimism and gratitude to her daily tasks.”

Earnhart joined Associated in 1987, and it is her second time to receive an Excel award for her work ethic, attention to detail and excellence.

Zachery R. Stica of Mt. Vernon, principal planning engineer, is the recipient of the 2017 Excel Award for Employee of the Year in a Professional Field.

 “Zack Stica exemplifies the title professional engineer,” said one nominator. “Through his experience gained at AECI, Zack solves complex problems, taking a broad perspective to identify solutions. … For the difficult, never-before-performed studies, Zack is the go-to engineer.”

Stica explained that his department models the transmission system and forecasts load requirements for the next 10 years on the system that serves Associated and its member systems.

Stica often creates software tools that simplify and speed up processes. One example is a script and spreadsheet he designed that cut 833 days of continuous computer run time and automated a process that took three weeks to complete to just 15 minutes. He has been involved with many other studies, including an annual compliance study in which he sets up models, runs simulations, analyzes results and writes reports.

“I enjoy problem solving,” he said about the process. It can be a solo effort or through collaboration. The tools he creates, “help perform studies faster and are easier to use. They take some of the tedious things out of the equation.”

Summing up Zack’s contributions, a nominator said, “Zack is most definitely the subject matter expert in nearly all areas of transmission planning.”

Deborah K. Wills of Billings, recently retired manager, human resources services, is the recipient of the 2017 Excel Award for Distinguished Service. This award honors the recipient’s contributions throughout an entire career.

Wills began her career at Associated in 1981 as a clerk typist and entered human resources in 1989 as an assistant. Through the years, she was involved with recruitment, compensation, employee training and development and compliance. She also was responsible for supervisor and employee training and in planning, testing and implementing various software upgrades.

A co-worker praised Wills, saying, “She teaches us to consistently learn and grow, with a gentle approach that keeps our energy charged in the HR arena, elevates our passion for customer service to our employees and, all the while, respecting and encouraging us to spend quality time with our families. She is the best of the best, hands down!”

Her nominator applauded Wills for her balanced approach to protecting the cooperative, complying with regulations and being fair to employees.

Reflecting on her successful career in HR, Debbie said, “You have to be a good listener and be open to other people’s ideas and issues. You look for common ground. … You have got to be willing to do the nitty gritty details of compliance, remembering you’re there to help employees and support management and balance both.”

Eight local employees are the recipients of the 2017 Excel Award for Innovative Action:

  • Laura M. Berryhill, power marketing settlements analyst, of Battlefield
  • David “Kirk” Clark, manager, energy marketing, of Springfield
  • Zachary S. Cochran, resource planner, of Rogersville
  • Matthew D. Harp, systems analyst, of Springfield
  • Robert “Scott” Jones, power marketer, of Springfield
  • Christopher M. McGeeney, manager, of Rogersville
  • Cameron J. Murdaugh, systems analyst, of Springfield
  • Anthony L. Tedeschi, EMS analyst, of Springfield

The eight employees plus another at the Dell Power Plant in Blytheville, Ark., orchestrated the registration of the Dell natural gas and oil plant as an electricity generating unit within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO system. MISO transmits electricity purchased from many different generators through an interconnected transmission network reaching 15 U.S. states and Manitoba, Canada.

The highly technical project was completed in about three months – well short of the usual nine months for such a project. “This project was innovative in the sense that it’s the first time we’ve ever done this with MISO,” said Jones, the project leader.

Members of the team were selected to serve because of their expertise in particular fields, including negotiating, contract review, information technology, accounting, power marketing, communication and logistics.

Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. is owned by and provides wholesale power to six regional and 51 local electric cooperative systems in Missouri, southeast Iowa and northeast Oklahoma that serve more than 910,000 meters. AECI’s mission is to provide an economical and reliable power supply and support services to its members, including the “Take Control & Save” energy efficiency program, AECI is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative.

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