even called a 35 MW solar plant in southern California home.
Q. What do you like most about
working for a major urban district
energy system? How does it differ
from systems in other cities where
you have worked?
A: Almost all the systems I have worked
on were large, but even the smaller systems had the same issues and problems.
Employees, customers and all other areas
of the operation require help, both in
financial dollars and direction from leadership, to provide quality service. I will say
it was easier to get to know people in the
smaller systems; and while large systems
need the same attention, they require you
to work harder at the relationships to
ensure that all employees know they are a
part of the team and have a stake in making the operation a success.
Q. What personal or professional
experience has most influenced your
A: When I was very young, I was brought
on to a project that had been built by
designers who did not understand anything about the design, operation or safety
of power plants. Needless to say, this
caused major problems. Helping solve
those problems made me a better person
and helped me understand and identify
what’s required in dealing successfully
with people. No matter how important
companies or people think they are, we
must all accept the fact that we can’t be
experts in everything. Sometimes we need
to ask for help and acknowledge that we
don’t have all the answers. Being able to
do this allows us to grow as leaders, and
also as a company.
Q. Please share with us something
about the people who have had a great
influence on your career. Why did they
make a difference?
A: There are three people. The first is
my wife of 45 years, Joan, who has given
me unfailing day-to-day encouragement,
no matter what. At the same time, she
has put up with me talking about district
energy and power plants day in and day
out. The second person was Carl Avers,
a wonderful mechanical engineer well
known to IDEA members, who pushed me
far beyond what I thought was possible to
achieve. The third was Glen Swineheart,
an engineer with the natural ability to simplify things and give his time to explain
the why, where and how of designing,
constructing and troubleshooting chilled-water and power plants. Each of these
people has made a significant impact on
my career in their own unique way.
Q. You were instrumental in helping
IDEA launch the John Gray Scholarship
Program, which provides scholarships
to talented individuals who wish to
enhance their knowledge of district
energy. Why was this important to you?
A: The district energy industry is not
widely known by the average person
who is starting to think about a career.
This poses a challenge for our industry,
and especially for IDEA members, as we
anticipate the retirement of so many
experienced engineers, operators and
others who have made our systems successful. We must develop the young talent that will soon be needed to take their
place. Our retiring baby boomers have a
vast wealth of knowledge, and we need
to transfer that knowledge to a new generation of district energy professionals.
We need young minds who are motivated
by our industry’s potential – minds that
will take our systems to the next level of
efficiency, provide outstanding customer
service, reliability, quality and so on.
The economy has hurt this growth, but
it will come back. I felt that we needed
to step up to the plate and help those
who are willing but who may need just
a little extra encouragement to join our
Q. What is your greatest source of
A: I have been blessed to be involved
in an industry where I could gain a wide
array of knowledge and expertise about
different types of plants all across the
United States as well as meet and work
with some truly great people – people on
this earth who are loyal, hard-working and
gracious with their time and their talents.
Being able to work with them and help
them along the way and see them grow
Q. What piece of advice would you
like to share with people who are new
to the district energy and/or combined
heat and power industries?
A: If you think you have a question
concerning anything but are nervous or
think that it might be dumb to ask, ask
it anyway. There are no dumb questions.
We all had to start at the beginning. And
I find that it’s often easy to assume that
the other person knows what we are
talking about, which may not always be
Q. What do you think is the most valuable aspect of IDEA membership?
A. There is no single answer to this question. Every organization has its issues,
and nothing is perfect, but IDEA is as
close as it comes. IDEA members and staff
provide professionalism, friendship, sharing and honesty about the successes and
challenges of our systems. We’re all in
the same boat, no matter the size of our
system. This willingness to offer information and answer questions, no matter how
large or small, helps each of us do our
jobs in a safe and better way. IDEA also
goes out of its way to include members’
families in conferences and meetings if
they wish to attend, which makes these
gatherings a special event for the whole
family. Developing long-term relationships
not only with the members but also with
their families is part of what makes IDEA
a valuable asset to one’s life.
Q. What’s the most valuable piece of
advice you’ve ever taken away from
an IDEA conference or fellow IDEA
A: You are not alone. There are all sorts
of people in IDEA who are willing to help,
no matter the problem, your qualifications
or position in life.
Q. When you’re not on the job, how do
you like to spend your time?
A: I spend time with my wife, which
includes trying to beat her in golf (she’s
good!). I also spend as much time as
possible with our six grandkids and
enjoy reading and doing woodworking
of all kinds. We also have three large
(over 100-lb each!) sheepdogs that keep