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Five Thomas Hill Energy Center employees receive Associated Electric Cooperative’s prestigious Excel awards

Joe Foster and David Newberry of Moberly, Steve Iwanowicz of Macon, Tammy Mason of Paris and Bret Price of Huntsville were among those honored at the virtual 27th annual employee awards ceremony, hosted from Associated Electric Cooperative’s Springfield headquarters.

The Excel awards are peer-nominated recognitions of employees who have excelled in their careers, leadership, mentoring, innovation, community services, teamwork or other exceptional contributions.

David Newberry, journeyman instrumentation technician specialist, is the recipient of the Mentor of the Year award. He was honored for sharing his 30 years of experience in operations and instrumentation with newcomers, interns and less experienced co-workers.

“He is constantly offering support and guidance not only to his co-workers, but I’ve also seen him passing insight on to interns and summer help as well. And he always does it with a good sense of humor,” his nominator said.

Newberry started as a general utility first period and progressed to auxiliary operator, after which he moved into instrumentation. He delivers his advice as he works shoulder to shoulder with a co-worker or intern or with someone outside the department. “His peers have often commented that he is the ‘go-to guy’ in the instrument shop. … I believe this is not only because he has great attention to detail and is very well organized, but he also has vast knowledge of the plant. … He is always happy to share his information and give a different point of view if it’s appropriate,” the nominator said. He also was praised for his high safety standards.

Joe Foster, senior manager, plant; Steve Iwanowicz, retired senior manager, special projects; and Tammy Mason, manager, labor relations are among 19 employees from across the cooperative who received the Outstanding Team of the Year award.  All were honored for their attention to employee safety, business continuity and staying focused on the coronavirus pandemic response plan.

“In addition to their day jobs, this team met daily and then twice a week … to discuss COVID-19, ways to keep employees safe, health care personnel coverage, return-to-normal operations, pay guidelines and many other tasks needed as a critical infrastructure employer,” said the nominator.

Task force members were carefully selected for their expertise and ability to stay the course. “We recognized these leaders were already really, really busy. But they became responsible for delegating so much work to so many people to make things happen,” said Dave White, task force leader.

 He added, “With Associated’s key mission and values as a foundation, the group was able to come up with effective solutions or products to allow the cooperative to fulfill its role as part of the bulk electric system.”

 Bret Price, senior systems support analyst, is the recipient of the Excel Employee of the Year award at the Thomas Hill plant. He was praised by three nominators for his helpfulness during the COVID-19 pandemic to equip employees to work from home and for his calm, collected, courteous and timely manner at all times.

Bret was given only a few days’ notice before many employees were sent home to work remotely. He turned old laptops in storage into primary workstations and located document scanners, headphones, earphones, printers, monitors, etc., to equip home offices. He also linked home offices to the Associated systems, set up MiFi hot spots and “how to” videos to show remote employees how to troubleshoot.

“I knew what a day looked like (for employees) and what was normal for them, and I tried to make the transition as easy as possible. It was a challenge, but I knew what they were used to and what they would need remotely. I had a feeling for what could go wrong and could take measures to address those issues,” he said.

One nominator praised Bret for his knowledge and patience, saying, “Bret is very knowledgeable – even issues that arose while working from home could be handled with a phone call. He has never made me feel like my question or problem was my fault, even if it was,” adding “I’ve said many times, his standard attire should be a Superman cape!”


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.

Photos available upon request.

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