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Three Thomas Hill Energy Center employees receive Excel awards from Associated Electric Cooperative

Shane A. Bruner of Moberly, Austin J. Holbrook of Macon and Anthony G. Joseph of Macon, all Associated Electric Cooperative employees at Thomas Hill Energy Center, were among those honored recently at the cooperative’s 24th annual employee recognition awards ceremony.

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

Bruner, senior engineer, is the recipient of the 2017 Excel Award for Mentor of the Year. Commenting about the award, he said, “I just think it’s in people’s nature to help people understand. Not to just answer their question or email but to get a little more involved in a discussion and to take a few minutes to explain what they’re seeing.

“To me getting out and walking and seeing (a piece of equipment) and not just staring at a drawing helps you grasp and understand. If anybody talks about a system, I grab a hard hat, and we walk out the door to check it out.”

His nominator commented, “Shane goes above and beyond, not just giving … an answer but teaching … the how, what and why of things. Shane drives me to do better and improve, giving … feedback and advice, personally and professionally.”

Bruner manages projects and repairs for boilers, piping and heat exchangers. It can be intense during spring and fall planned outages when projects that have been planned for several years are finally completed. Planners and engineers collaborate to research, design, write specifications, bid out and schedule repairs. “During an outage, I’m the customer, and the contractor manages his crew. He and I work together, and I provide management with updates,” he explained.

In 2017, Bruner also filled in as acting engineering and planning manager. His nominator commented on his double duties, saying, “He not only had to manage his projects and contractors but also had to manage and delegate his added workload of projects and contractors, all the while managing the engineers and planners and helping them through any issues they had, and attending an abundance of meetings.”

Reflecting on the Excel award, Shane said his own mentoring started with an uncle who was an engineer and one of the first in the family to earn a degree. The uncle encouraged Shane to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering in 2009 from what is now Missouri University of Science and Technology.                

Holbrook, engineer, is the recipient of the 2017 Excel Award for Employee of the Year in a Technical Field. He described his job and that of the other engineers in the department as designing, building and troubleshooting the automated systems that operate like a central nervous system to run the power plant. The data and measurements gathered second by second by instruments and equipment from all over the plant feed into the control rooms where their operators work the controls that keep the power pumping.

The engineers plan the maintenance and upgrades of these systems and provide technical support to the electrical and instrument shops that do the hands-on maintenance and upgrades.

Commenting on Holbrook’s work ethic, his nominator said, “No matter how many irons he already has in the fire, Austin will always take time to help out. It might be as simple as keeping our two-way radios repaired or something as complicated as getting U3’s new hydro jets running.”

In response, Holbrook said, “Day to day what gives me gratification in my job is helping people. It sounds corny, but when I help someone who has a problem, … that is an amazing, amazing feeling.”

His nominator recalled several occasions when Austin put forth extra effort. “Austin always puts out a detailed report after he has worked on something, so everyone will have a better understanding what the issue was and how it was resolved. If you have ever met Austin, you will agree he is as good as it gets.”                                        

Joseph, yard equipment operator, is the recipient of the 2017 Excel Award for Employee of the Year in an Operational Field.

“Tony is our in-house, RCD (rotary car dumper) expert. Over the last 20 years, he has taken great interest in the operation and care of the equipment. With that said, he is the one we ask to help train new operators on the RCD,” said a nominator.

Joseph’s expertise translates into knowing how to use a RCD to safely and efficiently unload 18,000 tons of coal in about 7.5 hours from the typically 150 cars that make up a coal train.

He joined Associated Electric Cooperative as a general utility first period in 1990 when Associated was still mining its own coal on site. It has since reclaimed the mine, winning national recognition for its results.

At the time, heavy equipment was the draw for him, he said. “But this was a whole different level and different variety, all of it interesting to me.”

When Associated converted to low-sulfur coal from Wyoming, reducing sulfur dioxide emissions 90 percent, Joseph helped build the new railroad spur and unloading area and went through the learning curve of operating the RCD and other new equipment. If there was a problem, “You had to get the system back up and running so the coal trains could be unloaded in a safe and efficient manner. There was a lot of pressure to do that without a lot of downtime,” he said.

Because of his expertise with the RCD, Joseph was asked by management to help train new utility operators to run conveyors and other equipment. A nominator praised Joseph for his training role, saying, “Tony has been instrumental in the practical portion of the operations of the coal handling equipment. He asks the operators the required questions but also adds his experiences by mixing up scenarios for them to think about during the testing. Tony is very good to help walk the new operator through the steps and explains the operations of the department to them when they get off track.”

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.

  An Equal Opportunity Employer and provider/disability/veteran

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