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Joel Wilhite receives Excel award from Associated Electric Cooperative

Man in hardhat, orange shirt, inside plant, panels of controls behind him
Joel Wilhite of Lee’s Summit, principal combustion turbine specialist at Holden Power Plant

Joel Wilhite of Lee’s Summit, principal combustion turbine specialist at Holden Power Plant, received Associated Electric Cooperative’s Employee of the Year Excel award  at the cooperative’s recent 28th annual employee recognition award hosted at its Springfield headquarters.

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

“Joel’s excellence was on full display during the polar vortex event in February 2021. He successfully led the Holden team through extraordinary efforts to operate the units on fuel oil, navigate numerous operational issues and also receive delivery of 183 tanker loads of fuel oil,” the nominator said.

During the week-long weather crisis, Wilhite successfully converted the plant to operating with fuel oil instead of natural gas when the latter’s price rose astronomically. He dealt with clogged fuel lines, flooded unit components and unloading 1.4 million gallons of oil in 0-degree temperatures.

He kept the lights on for thousands of Associated members during that extreme week.

Before joining Associated in 2002, Wilhite earned degrees in finance and electrical engineering technology. At Associated, he first worked at another of its gas plants before moving to Holden Power Plant. There, he has been a Mr. Fix It, skilled handyman and operator for nearly 20 years. Having uncles who worked in the Associated mines and at Thomas Hill Energy Center, and having seen the mine dragline operate, it was a dream come true for Wilhite to join the cooperative, he said.

Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. is owned by and provides wholesale power to a system of six regional transmission cooperatives and their 51 local distribution cooperatives. This cooperative system delivers electricity to 2.1 million member-consumers behind the 935,000 meters served in Missouri, northeast Oklahoma and southeast Iowa. Associated’s mission is to deliver economical and reliable power and support services. Associated is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative.

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