By Philip Reed
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 recipients represent WAPA's best and brightest – those employees who have demonstrated sustained excellence in their performance combined with a willingness to go above and beyond over the course of their careers," explained Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau in her announcement of the winners. “These distinguished professionals are technical experts, talented leaders and role models whose influence is felt throughout WAPA and beyond."
All ESA nominations are submitted by employees and peers. Here are the winners for 2022.
Note: Reed was a public affairs specialist.
Upper Great Plains
Mark Buchholz has more than 30 years of experience with Upper Great Plains' Maintenance, Operations and Compliance programs, and he has served as the region's compliance manager for 12 years. He provides technical expertise regarding the North American Electric Reliability Corporation reliability standards in all areas of power system operations, maintenance, transmission planning, physical security and cybersecurity.
In addition to his work at WAPA, Buchholz serves on the Midwest Reliability Organization's Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Program Advisory Council, the MRO Performance Risk Oversight Subcommittee, the Mid-Continent Compliance Forum Steering Committee, the Southwest Power Pool Reliability Compliance Advisory Council and NERC's Compliance and Certification Committee.
These activities enable Mark to excel in the day-to-day performance of his work assignments and enhance his ability to provide internal guidance to the compliance program. He was also recently recognized with the MRO's Highly Effective Reliability Organizations award.
Buchholz has supported WAPA and other MRO entities through complex operational issues, including the integration of UGP into the Southwest Power Pool market, Critical Infrastructure Protection version 5 implementation and severe weather events. He is regarded even outside of WAPA as a trusted expert when investigating operational events.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Buchholz served in UGP's emergency operations center as his region's planning section chief, advocating for the safety of system operators and the reliability of the bulk electric system and helping make difficult decisions regarding building access, system operator sequestrations, logistical supply challenges and adjustments to operations.
Supervisory Public Utilities Specialist
Sheila Cook has been the Rocky Mountain Rates Manager since 2006. She is regarded as an expert in her field not only in her region, but across WAPA.
Cook was instrumental in successfully launching the Western Energy Imbalance Service market, establishing the necessary short-term rates, ensuring that WAPA properly set balancing authority service agreements in place and more. She served as the Memorandum of Understanding Technical Committee chair, coordinating collaboration across WAPA, generation agencies, the Western States Power Corporation and the Mid-West Electric Consumers Association.
She also plays a key role in other initiatives, including updating the Rates and Repayment Dashboard, establishing an administrator repayment metric and converting Federal Register notice templates to plain language.
Cook led the ancillary services policy document, which summarized current practices and set the direction for ancillary service rates across WAPA, to finalization and adoption by the Power Marketing Management Council. This was a complex project, and Cook served as its primary subject matter expert.
She has been integral to WAPA's membership in the Southwest Power Pool, modeling data that was key to the effort. Additionally, she has established and implemented the requirements for the new Power Repayment System. Cook led the design, coordination and execution of new ancillary services rates for several projects, which included working with customers to help them understand the changes.
Cook has demonstrated many times over her commitment to WAPA's mission through evolving its services, building new internal and external relationships and striving toward organizational excellence.
Julia Duffy oversees and maintains superior case management of all WAPA-wide Equal Employment Opportunity cases. In her role, she initiates mediations, facilitations or coaching, together with complaint closures, before hearing or appeal. She provides advice and insight into impending actions that may impact WAPA and the Department of Energy as a whole.
She has been instrumental in maintaining the integrity, compliance and voice of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, helping to manage the budget, create and develop the OEID webpage and maintain departmental contractual obligations.
This year, she coordinated and helped author WAPA's responses to a DOE data call on diversity training, assisted with an equity presentation and contributed to the draft Equity Program Plan, toolkit and appendix. She was also a key member in creating the OEID Dashboard for the visual representation of demographic data.
Most recently, Duffy provided legal perspective to WAPA and the DOE regarding concerns related to COVID-19. She was also involved with reviewing the draft American Federation of Government Employees collective bargaining agreement regarding grievance processes and provisions.
She was instrumental in performing analysis of the EEO Program and helped to identify affirmative employment objectives. She has also been supportive of and involved in the realignment efforts to move the EEO Program to the DOE.
Duffy excels in assisting the organization to comply with all regulatory guidance provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management. She has built sound, valuable and important partnerships throughout her career with WAPA, and her advice is widely sought after.
Supervisory Public Utilities Specialist
Tina Ramsey has held numerous positions during her more than 30 years of service with Desert Southwest. In many cases, she was the first woman to hold those roles.
Ramsey is currently the region's rates manager. She has also served as its settlements and resources manager, a technical lead in Power Operations, a dispatcher, a transmission planning engineer and an advisor and program manager.
Her work on the Boulder Canyon Project Post-2017 Remarketing effort is representative of her value to the organization. WAPA had allocated BCP power to 31 new customers, and this increase meant that the existing processes for customers to schedule, monitor and account for their power would no longer be sufficient. Ramsey led a team that, within 16 months, developed new automated tools, processes and a user-friendly customer portal.
Ramsey also recognized that many of the new customers were smaller entities and Tribes with limited experience of hydropower and BCP. She created, coordinated and hosted an all-day Hoover 101 course that covered topics ranging from power generation to invoicing.
She has also been leading an initiative to explore a single rate for DSW's four transmission systems, known as the One Transmission Rate initiative. Ramsey collaborates with DSW and Rocky Mountain stakeholders to develop the concept and meets with customers to explain the initiative and address their questions.
In addition to her accomplishments and technical experience, she is a powerful and effective role model who frequently volunteers for teams and committees, often working nights and weekends in order to find the time.
Karen Rowe has been with WAPA for more than 36 years. She was integral to establishing the organization's engineering standards for the design of wood poles, which support most of WAPA's transmission lines. She has been involved in nearly every wood pole civil engineering design and maintenance project during her tenure.
Rowe was a primary contributing author of WAPA's current Wood Pole Design Guides, Wood Structure Maintenance Guidelines and Wood Pole Inspection Program. She developed current engineering wood pole structure specification standards and drawings and developed standards and quality assurance programs. She also developed the current Transmission Line Design Data Project form to ensure that requirements are efficiently communicated and documented.
Rowe has been involved in numerous emergency structure replacement projects, during which she has provided solutions. Earlier this year, she worked quickly to redesign a transmission line to relocate a structure to new coordinates to prevent the line from failing.
She is also WAPA's technical representative on the Accredited Standards Committee and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Working Group on Management of Existing Overhead Transmission Lines. She volunteered to help establish Headquarters' fitness facility and coordinated employee involvement in additional programs, including the Federal Cup 5k Race and charity events for the March of Dimes and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Rowe works diligently, serves WAPA's mission and meets challenges while maintaining a professional work environment. She is a recognized expert in her field and is regularly consulted on questions and issues. She is a team player and brings a wealth of knowledge to every project, making her expertise and support available to others.
Supervisory Information Technology Specialist
Will Slinkard is always willing to think creatively and ask questions, whether working with senior managers or his direct reports. He makes a dedicated effort to better himself both personally and professionally in terms of his leadership, knowledge and experience.
Slinkard was the first person at WAPA to implement the active directory structure in a supervisory control and data acquisition system. He has also worked on the System Administration, Desktop, Networking and Application Support teams. He not only has expert-level knowledge and understanding of many areas of Information Technology and WAPA's business, but he is open to others presenting options and ideas.
He was a member of the organization's inaugural Change Management cadre and Lean Six Sigma green belt class. In this program, he successfully created and implemented a new process improvement for paying invoices in Desert Southwest's Energy Management Merchant Operation Office. He was also a participant in WAPA's first 18-month Leadership Emergence and Development program.
Slinkard has been involved in major efforts, such as the Sierra Nevada Marketing Plan, the SN Market Redesign and Technology Upgrade Implementation, the changeover from Peak Reliability Coordinator to the California Independent System Operator, the SN Energy Imbalance Market transition and many others. He has proven himself to be a great contributor to all of these efforts and more by understanding the business processes, goals and how to navigate unexpected issues.
Slinkard is skilled in his understanding of technology, his communication with others and his knowledge of business operations. He possesses a keen ability to foster relationships with his colleagues, business partners and customers.
Reliability Compliance Management Specialist
Albert Slucher started at WAPA in 2011 as an infrastructure applications supervisor in Desert Southwest. He was tasked with overseeing numerous enterprise systems, including Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint and ServiceNow.
Slucher also led a team of federal and contract employees responsible for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection and Federal Information Security Management Act programs. As a project manager for the CIP version 5 transition, he coordinated the cybersecurity reviews and evaluations for more than 150 systems, the design and cybersecurity configuration of intermediate access systems and backup and recovery procedures for multiple regions.
Slucher also led the team that documented, designed and deployed a common process for the authorization and tracking of physical, electronic and informational access across all regions using what is now known as WAPA at Your Service, resulting in significant cost savings and security enhancement.
Slucher's passion for training has directly improved the quality and security of information technology services at WAPA. In 2019, Slucher was competitively selected for the inaugural cohort of the Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy. He has applied the principles learned to WAPA's CIP program, training IT and Maintenance personnel more effectively and providing stronger insights into cybersecurity controls.
He also led the organization's first-ever virtual mock compliance audit in 2020. After six months of preparation for an in-person event involving multiple participants from WAPA, customers and neighboring entities, he successfully reconfigured the mock audit as a virtual event with three days' notice.
Slucher is currently leading the compliance implementation of CIP-012, securing communications between control centers. He is also leading a group composed of IT and Maintenance representatives to overhaul the regional Transient Cyber Asset and Removable Media processes and create a WAPA-wide process.
Information Technology Specialist
David Tucker started at WAPA as a contract business analyst and programmer. After supporting a power billing effort, he returned to support Sierra Nevada's 2004 Power Marketing Plan. At the time, WAPA was standing up its own day-ahead and a 24-hour desk, and Tucker worked to identify and fill gaps in the initiative.
As a federal employee, he has served WAPA in a number of IT roles, including as the organization's enterprise architect. Tucker led the WAPA-wide rollout of the Shared Repository for Contracts, or ShaRC, effort. This was the first common tool WAPA used for contract administration, providing centralized management of customer data.
He also led a fundamental change in how the organization managed integrations by introducing TIBCO, which serves as a universal translator and communication path to connect all WAPA systems. With TIBCO, users can “publish" changes and connected systems “subscribe" to receive those updates, with no manual effort or translation required. This has represented a significant source of cost avoidance.
Tucker is also WAPA's expert on cloud technology and developed the organization's cloud plan. He has performed significant research so that he could be able to help guide the organization to act strategically. His efforts have saved WAPA hundreds of thousands of hours of work through automation, standardization, improved data and controls.
Tucker consistently pushes the organization to improve and encourages those around him to do so as well. He understands the technology landscape and where things are headed, and he helps to keep WAPA moving in the correct direction.