Every year, WAPA's administrator honors standout employees with Exceptional Service Awards. The ESAs recognize those who excel in technical competency, enthusiasm, innovation and commitment to bettering themselves and WAPA.
“The ESA is the highest award the administrator can give," said Interim Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau in her announcement. “Since 1990, we have recognized about 240 exceptional employees and their accomplishments. The ESA recipients represent the best and brightest of WAPA – those employees who go above and beyond to serve our customers and our mission and who embody our core values every day."
All ESA nominations are submitted by employees and peers. Here are the winners for 2021.
For nearly 20 years, Claire Douthit has provided legal, marketing and operational support to WAPA, specifically the Rocky Mountain region and the Colorado River Storage Project Management Center. As the organization has moved toward its strategic goals and targets, she has provided sound legal advice, support and organizational skills to analyze, assess and tackle key industry initiatives.
Douthit is a trusted member of RM's strategic team. She was instrumental to the success of the retirement of the Rocky Mountain Reserve Sharing Group and the subsequent Northwest Power Pool Reserve Sharing Group migration and the NWPP Balancing Authority agreement for members within the Western Area Colorado Missouri BA.
Due to the nature of a WAPA-controlled BA, complex legal considerations and documentation were necessary. Douthit's expertise was critical to the success of the projects as well as the continued reliability of WAPA's transmission system and the Western Interconnection as a whole. She has exemplified WAPA's commitment to its customers and the industry by providing the sound legal support to facilitate a more cost-effective and reliable grid.
Douthit was also instrumental to this year's successful implementation of the Southwest Power Pool Western Energy Imbalance Service market. Because of her unique position covering the WACM BA, RM projects and the Colorado River Storage Project, she was challenged to both research the law and recommend the correct legal courses of action. She also ensured the protection and critical policies for the RM projects and CRSP, as well as for their customers.
This included the creation and implementation of the Joint Dispatch Agreement, the WEIS Tariff, the WEIS Market Protocols, additions to WAPA's Delegation Authority and the monumental task of creating a new agreement for WACM BA customers to facilitate WEIS and other important BA services.
UPPER GREAT PLAINS
Vice President of Power Marketing for Upper Great Plains
Lori Frisk has provided leadership to the Upper Great Plains Power Marketing teams, and her drive and dedication have been critical to their success. She reorganized workload and made staffing changes to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the Southwest Power Pool Settlements process. She also represented UGP's Settlements and Power Billing groups during the Organizational Approach to Markets effort.
As a power marketing manager, Frisk develops programs for the sale and transmission of hydroelectric power to a diverse customer base. She negotiates contracts for power purchases, power sales, facilities, acquisition of transmission services and the settlement of disputes and rates.
Within the past year, Frisk led her staff to successfully market over 3,500 gigawatt-hours of energy generated by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers in the SPP Integrated Marketplace and the Western Interconnection. She also led her team to execute more than 200 power-related contracts with customers, including 23 Native American Tribes.
Frisk led her team to implement the policies and processes necessary as UGP joined the SPP Western Energy Imbalance Service market. She played an integral role in UGP announcing its decision to consider participation in the SPP Regional Transmission Organization. She also led her team in negotiations with customers and cosuppliers in the aftermath of February's polar vortex.
One of her key accomplishments in 2020 was establishing the region's COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center and an Incident Command System. As incident commander, she led the regional efforts in the development and application of COVID-19 policies and procedures, coordination of resources and information sharing.
Frisk is the regional sponsor for the Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Committee. She participates on the Inclusion, Innovation and Technology Committee, and serves on the American Federation of Government Employees Contract Negotiation Team, the Full-Time Equivalent Reallocation Process Team, the Energy Storage Team and the Extended Leadership Team.
Supervisory Human Resources Specialist
Don Gerrish has been with WAPA and the Department of Energy for nearly six years, and has provided noteworthy leadership to not only his team, but to the Power Marketing Administration Human Resources Shared Service Center as a whole, supporting the transition of several permanent and temporary HR directors.
Gerrish ensures that WAPA's management and unions continue to have a great working relationship. He assists on the Administratively Determined Pay Committee and has worked with WAPA's leaders and the DOE to find resolutions to ongoing pay issues. He also is a member of the Western Maintenance Managers Committee and assists with yearly pay negotiations. Additionally, he successfully negotiated a contentious pay issue in which the Defense Finance and Accounting Service paid craft employees erroneously.
During his tenure, he has negotiated many memoranda of understanding with unions related to myriad issues, including performance, discipline and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements. He and his team are consistently praised by supervisors and employees for their professionalism, quick response and customer service.
Over the past several years, Gerrish and his staff have trained employees WAPA-wide on issues such as time and leave, performance, employee relations and labor relations. He has served as the local reasonable accommodation coordinator, helping management and employees negotiate solutions to complex issues. He is also the agency telework coordinator and worked on the team that initiated WAPA's first MaxiFlex program.
More recently, he has worked continuously on a variety of COVID-19-related issues and has provided expert advice to management and employees on a variety of issues to ensure that WAPA's mission is accomplished. Gerrish is always looking out for his team and WAPA, taking every opportunity to appreciate and recognize his staff.
Maintenance Management Specialist
David Hahn has contributed significantly to WAPA during his 18 years of service with the Sierra Nevada region, particularly in the areas of North American Electric Reliability Corporation compliance and Reliability Centered Maintenance.
In his role as a subject matter expert for NERC Compliance Standard PRC-005, Protection System Maintenance, Hahn has shown outstanding performance in tracking and documenting the required evidence for audits. Since 2009, there have been no findings in the three-year audits performed by NERC and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. His performance is consistently above required outage reporting for the Transmission Availability Data System and the North American Transmission Forum.
Hahn is considered the expert for SN's RCM Program. He has represented the region on the WAPA-wide RCM team since the program began more than 15 years ago and was instrumental in developing and implementing SN's equipment studies, job plans and preventive maintenance program. Additionally, Hahn continually researches new technology to improve WAPA's maintenance practices. He has performed significant research on improving the use of corona cameras and equipment monitoring devices to enhance or adjust required maintenance.
Hahn's expertise covers a wide range of areas and he is respected throughout the organization for his knowledge, experience and commitment to excellence.
He is a representative on the Electric Power Research Institute Transmission & Substations Task Force, the North American Transmission Forum Metrics Working Group and the California Independent System Operator Transmission Maintenance Coordination Committee.
Hahn's actions embody both ethics and integrity, and his commitment to service is beyond compare. He toils behind the scenes to ensure WAPA's success, and his treatment of others is rooted in kindness and respect. He is a good-natured person who elevates those who work with him. Hahn's commitment to excellence and integrity is apparent in everything he has accomplished during his career with WAPA.
Power System Dispatcher
Sheila Keating has served WAPA for 33 years as an electrical engineer. She is recognized across the organization as an expert in many areas, and has played an integral role in establishing and ensuring that the organization's standards for protection, compliance and reliability are met.
Keating is a technical lead and regional expert for System Protection and Compliance and an active member on four WAPA committees. She has successfully established and currently maintains Desert Southwest's protection compliance program; through her leadership, there were no North American Electric Reliability Corporation or Western Electricity Coordinating Council violations in more than 17 years.
For more than a decade, she has been solely responsible for maintaining and updating the ASPEN transmission system models for the DSW region. This requires constant diligence and is vital to the service, planning and reliability of the bulk electric system. She has also demonstrated unparalleled attention to detail in engineering design packages.
Keating is a recognized subject matter expert for protection settings and relay coordination. She provides engineering consultation and recommendations for every utility connected to DSW's transmission system, and she is responsible for constant communication and coordination with all utilities within DSW's service territory.
She provides technical support to field personnel in analyzing fault records, evaluating equipment performance, investigating misoperations, troubleshooting equipment failures and researching innovative solutions.
Keating is also a member of the Human Performance Analysis Team, and her experience in fault analysis is sought after to explain events to those in the group and provide insight into day-to-day field work. Her expertise has helped the team to gain a better understanding of events that have occurred and then to be better able to make informed suggestions to benefit crews.
COLORADO RIVER STORAGE PROJECT MANAGEMENT CENTER
Supervisory Energy Management and Marketing Specialist
Shane Messano, a former U.S. Marine, exemplifies the can-do spirit of the Marine Corps and lives the code of semper fidelis – always faithful – on a daily basis.
He started his career with WAPA around a decade ago as a public utilities specialist assigned to the Colorado River Storage Project Energy Management and Marketing Office and has steadily progressed through the organization. He now manages the day-ahead and real-time merchant functions as EMMO manager, proving himself as a catalyst for moving CRSP and WAPA forward in an ever-changing industry.
Messano has assisted and led nearly all of the initiatives and changes for the EMMO, working with other functional areas to bring WAPA's needs into focus for the benefit of the organization. His highly motivated attitude has enabled him to become an expert in operations and reliability, as well as participate in several operations-focused committees, ensuring that financial and merchant perspectives are taken into account.
He has a lead role in WAPA's initiative to join Southwest Power Pool's Western Energy Imbalance Service market. From the beginning, Messano has been working tirelessly, participating in every Western Markets Executive Committee meeting and the drafting of the Joint Dispatch Agreement, the WEIS Tariff and WEIS Market Protocols. He chaired the WEIS Market Protocols Task Force and successfully brought all WEIS members together to finalize the protocols on a tight timeline in less than three weeks.
Messano's leadership and work prevented any delay in the implementation of WEIS. He took it upon himself to work with and advise SPP technical staff on the correct course of action for WEIS issues, bridging the gap between the operating environments that are very different in the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection. He is respected by the SPP staff and the WEIS members, and he continues to bring them together in pursuit of common goals.
Robert Springer is a skilled engineering professional. He is a key expert for WAPA and the Rocky Mountain region and has served proudly for 22 years.
Springer's performance is stellar and consistent, and he significantly outperforms long-term engineering milestones. He has provided his expertise to several supervisory control and data acquisition; bulk electric system; and metering and communications projects. He also played a key engineering role in moving the Colorado River Storage Project metering boundary from Shiprock, New Mexico, to Pinnacle Peak, Arizona.
He is knowledgeable of the key aspects of North American Electric Reliability Corporation compliance and has worked to successfully solve issues with the Reliability Compliance Team during critical compliance assessments, reducing risk and substantiating evidence for Western Electricity Coordinating Council audits.
Additionally, his involvement in outside activities reflects favorably upon WAPA, such as a meter project with the Bureau of Reclamation, during which he applied his engineering skills to upgrade the Reclamation meters within the generation plants in preparation for the Western Energy Imbalance Service market.
He has worked with the Mountain West Transmission Group to coordinate the purchase and configuration of meters for the Colorado River Storage Project. He further worked to successfully test a new WAPA security-event logs solution to sustain NERC compliance. In addition, he worked to successfully install numerous remote terminal units at several of the CRSP plants in order to electronically poll data from the meters and pass it accurately to the automatic generation control.
Springer also led the effort to successfully complete the broad-spectrum implementation of BES cyber assets for Maximo attributes and all 7,650 engineering drawing revision updates.
He originated an authorized baseline change configurations interactive worksheet process, which received recognition from the 2018 WECC auditors. He has always exceeded expectations in his additional duties and assignments and demonstrates outstanding performance of day-to-day engineering tasks.
Supervisory Information Technology Specialist
Ronald Tritz has been a champion of networking technology at WAPA for almost 30 years. He is an expert in his field, known for looking ahead to find solutions that will work into the future and serve the entirety of WAPA and its customers, rather than only one program or region.
Tritz pioneered a new approach to reading power billing revenue meters by implementing network connectivity between WAPA's meter data collection system and revenue meters in the field. Previously, someone had to drive to the sites, oftentimes hundreds of miles, to download the information. Tritz safely and securely replaced the legacy system using modern technology, resulting in a faster, more reliable system.
He also served as a leader in the development of the Western Information Network, which allowed increased connectivity at substations. WIN was an earlier iteration of what would eventually become WAPA's Secure Enclave Support Center, and Tritz was a leader in that buildout as well, allowing for increased secure, remote access to Operational Technology infrastructure.
Tritz was a leader in the Network Modernization effort, which increased WAPA's bandwidth and capacity. Having been completed within a year of the pandemic, it paved the way for a near-seamless transition to the maximum telework posture. He was a key leader in the effort to migrate 1,200 employees to telework in a two-week period, and to build solutions so that power marketers could get Voice over Internet Protocol and network service from their homes.
Tritz represented WAPA as a key member of the Department of Energy and Electric Power Research Institute Resilient Communications Workgroup, a team that was responsible for determining technical solutions for emergency communication for North American utilities during major black sky events that would disrupt the normal functioning of critical infrastructure.