Four employees at Thomas Hill Energy Center employees receive Excel awards
Associated Electric Cooperative presented its prestigious Excel awards to four employees at Thomas Hill Energy Center during its 25th annual employee recognition awards ceremony last week at its Springfield headquarters.
The Excel awards are peer-nominated recognitions of employees who have excelled in their crafts, vocations and professions or in specific functions.
Gregory “Cav” M. Cavender, control room operator with training, is the recipient of the 2018 Excel Award for Employee of the Year in an Operational Field. The award honors an employee in the operations department of a power plant.
Cavender, of Excello, joined Associated in 2002 with power plant experience. He progressed through operations, along with short detours in the electrical shop and water and air operations to gain additional experience. As a control room operator, Cavender is responsible for the second-to-second operation of a generating unit. He remains at the controls but communicates with assistants and others throughout the plant who serve as his eyes and ears.
His nominator praised him for his deep knowledge of power generation, saying, “Cav is without a doubt one of the best unit operators I have worked with. Cav is always receptive to new ideas that may increase efficiency and is continually finding systems and processes he can improve upon. His knowledge of his units and their systems is deep, and his ability to control these systems is unparalleled.”
The complexity of power production keeps Cavender challenged. “There’s so much that can happen, and no training can cover it all. I learn something new every day,” he said.
Charles “Keith” Jordan, maintenance superintendent, is the recipient of the 2018 Excel Award for Supervisor of the Year. This award honors an employee for his/her ability to supervise, lead and inspire other employees.
Jordan, of Marceline, joined Associated in 2001 after 17 years of road life as a journeyman boilermaker. That experience and his self-motivation and organizational skills were put to good use at Thomas Hill, first as a journeyman mechanic/welder, then maintenance planner and finally maintenance superintendent. His department of planners, mechanics and supervisors is responsible for the maintenance of the plant’s three units, as well as heavy equipment and other coal yard equipment. Preventive maintenance is the daily routine, and the mechanics troubleshoot from there.
Under Jordan’s supervision, the department has completed more work in-house, reducing maintenance costs that benefits member-owners.
The nominator praised Jordan’s personal investment in his department, saying, “He works hard to deliver training, toolings and most of all, personal ownership in the process.”
Jordan in turn praised his team, saying, “… It’s a team effort and takes a lot of people to make this tick. We have a good team and a good atmosphere.” He admitted that the good atmosphere comes in part from his own outlook. “I’m a very positive person. I don’t like negativity. I’m an ‘I can’ or ‘We can’ kind of person. I can’t stand negativity and don’t have time for it. Nothing good comes of it. Positivity, on the other hand, grows itself.”
Tammy M. Mason, manager, labor relations, is the recipient of the 2018 Excel Award for Employee of the Year in a Professional Field. The award recognizes the skills and service of an employee in a “white collar” position.
Mason, of Paris, joined Associated in 2015 after years of human resources experience with CenturyLink and the financial services industry. Her labor relations responsibilities include representing Associated as she works with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ chief steward at Thomas Hill and with its business agent for both power plants.
A nominator praised her, saying, “I’ve watched her solve problems for employees when she had been told that it can’t be done. I don’t think she understands the word! I’ve … watched her resolve them (difficult situations) in the highest professional manner I have ever witnessed.”
Mason said she strives to respect every employee. “I try to approach every situation in an absolutely fair and professional way. I’m a person who always tries to put myself in other persons’ shoes,” she said.
Mason’s HR responsibilities include supervising four employees, workforce planning and performance management. For example, she is involved in preparing employees to succeed pending retirees and recruiting highly talented new employees. A cooperativewide employee engagement survey in the works is an example of a project that requires communication with employees on every shift to explain its purpose, encourage participation and eventually report results.
Kevin L. Murphy, recently retired land agent, is the recipient of the 2018 Excel Award for Distinguished Service. This award recognizes an employee for an entire career of service and excellence at Associated.
Murphy, of Macon, joined Associated in 1981 after graduating from the University of Missouri-Rolla with a mechanical engineering degree. He spent about 15 years in the engineering department working on mechanical and structural projects and rotating equipment. He also oversaw the coal yard conversion to low-sulfur coal in the 1990s that reduced sulfur dioxide emissions 90 percent.
Murphy moved into management as assistant operations superintendent and then full superintendent. He was promoted to plant performance manager in 2005, then plant manager, and then completed his career as land agent overseeing the reclamation of mined land and its management. One of his responsibilities was serving as Associated’s liaison with the various partner-organizations involved with a demonstration farm on Associated’s property. The farm is a research site to test the viability of cover crops and no-till drilling in improving soil fertility and reducing soil erosion.
Murphy was well-known for his budgeting, negotiation and listening skills, fairness in working with contractors and vendors and effective collaboration.
“Few people have the breadth of experience of a coal-fired power plant as Kevin Murphy. … Kevin’s long and distinguished career can only be summarized as extraordinary in every way,” said the nominator. Referring to Murphy’s recent retirement, the nominator continued, “It brings an end to an era of an employee who has done it all with dignity and respect for his fellow employees and the cooperative.”
Looking back on his 37 years at Associated, Murphy said, “One of the things I learned early on when coming into a place as complicated as a power plant was to learn – a lot! The minute you don’t know the answers, let your peers and supervisors know. Learn from them and come back with the answer you know is right. Fortunately, there were a lot of people willing to help me learn.”
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 910,000 members. Associated’s mission is to provide an economical and reliable power supply and support services to its members. Associated is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative.
Photographs available electronically.