Cream of the Crop
Standing Ovations Greet Winners of Volt, Lineman Awards
As he came to the stage, it was clear he was deeply touched.
Michael Huston, facilities and print shop director in Stephenville, seemed a little misty-eyed as he received the 2018 Volt Award — an honor reserved for employees who have promoted and demonstrated the co-op’s continuing commitment to safety, leadership, productivity, innovation and teamwork, as well as portraying a professional representation of the cooperative in his or her daily work.
Huston was one of two winners honored Dec. 7 during United Cooperative Services’ 2018 Christmas party. Trey Carper, a journeyman lineman at the cooperative’s Burleson office, received the 2018 Lineman of the Year award. This award symbolizes a United lineman’s commitment to safety in hazardous work environments and the proud heritage of service and dependability the cooperative’s operations crews provide daily to United members.
Both honorees received standing ovations as they went up to the podium to be recognized.
“I knew I had been nominated a few times, but I never figured on getting the award,” Huston said after the event. “I was very surprised! I’ve always tried to do a good job at whatever I was doing. To have your peers say so means a great deal to me. When you have more than 100 bosses, it is impossible to please everyone all of the time, but I will continue trying. They are all worth trying for.”
United CEO Cameron Smallwood said the coveted employee awards serve as the annual highlight and observance of the cooperative’s goal to surpass member expectations for service reliability and value.
“This year, we had two very deserving employees win these awards,” he said. “Despite this year’s challenges, we continue to lead in safety with a 2.4 million hour benchmark without a lost-time accident. That represents more than eight years in total. We also launched our 9.9-megawatt United Community Solar project, which was not only a challenge, but also a huge success. Finally, each and every one of our employees worked tirelessly during the February 2018 ice storm, which was the worst I’ve seen in my 20-year career, and may be one of the worst United’s ever had to overcome.
“With so many employees working so hard to deliver the promise of exceptional service and value to our members and succeeding in that delivery, I know that choosing this year’s recipients was especially difficult for those charged with doing so. However, both Mike and Trey have personified this commitment throughout their careers at the co-op, and we recognize both of them for their consistent hard work and dedication.”
Huston began his career in August 1998, serving as a custodian and mailroom helper at Erath County Electric Cooperative. He joins previous winners Denise Robertson, Jason Dillard, Patty Holleman, Jerry Scott, Johnny Hazzard, Robert Bernhoft, Seth Rosser, Robert Sherman, Cory Menzel and Wes Burton as the 11th winner of the Volt award.
“Well, all I can say is the same thing I always say,” Huston said as he addressed the crowd. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had, the best company I’ve ever worked for, and the best people I’ve ever worked with. Thank you.”
He also remembered when Johnson County Electric Cooperative and Erath County Electric Cooperative first consolidated into UCS, Landy Bennett (currently chief administrative officer for the co-op) told all employees to have fun while getting our jobs done.
“I’ve tried to remember that when I feel rushed to complete a task, or I hear someone complaining a little, I often say ‘fun, fun, fun,’” he said. “We all have our bad days when we want to say ‘I quit, quit, quit,’ but the Bible says to do all things as unto Him, so I just keep trucking like everyone else. It always works out, eventually.”
Carper said that though several people told him he might be chosen as Lineman of the Year, he didn’t believe any of them. That is, until he heard his name.
Then, he panicked.
“I was like, ‘Oh no! I gotta get up there? I hate getting up in front of people,’” he joked. “I didn’t think I was going to win. I have to say, it is something all of us want to win eventually. Lineman of the Year—it’s a special honor and everyone wants to be named as a member of the select group.”
Carper started his career at United in August 2007 as a groundman. He joins Ben Perry, Ed Nuñez, Mike Fergason, Mark Buckner, Robert Rejcek, Jeremiah Esquell, Gary Sims, Jerry Don Robinson, Jeff Pannell, Travis Ashworth, Joe Ponce, Jim Young, Arick Wienecke, Carlos Martinez and Josh Koopmann as the 16th recipient of the award.
Prior to recognizing Carper as the 2018 winner, Smallwood discussed how a newly chosen Lineman of the Year always demonstrates that safety is the No. 1 priority at the co-op.
“One of the things that has to be exhibited by each year’s winner is that guarantee and dedication to safety not only for themselves, but also for the other employees in training—just being with them and making sure they’re safe in everything they do,” Smallwood said. “Trey has definitely done that. As needs have come up from office to office, he always has stepped up, made sacrifices and gone from place to place —whenever a need was present. He’s always done a heck of a job wherever he’s working. He’s a leader where he’s at right now, in Burleson, and he’s doing a great job mentoring to our newer, younger employees.”