|Benny Shuff (right) shares a laugh with fellow servicer II Kevin Boyd, following a safety meeting at the Fieldale, Va., office last month. Shuff was recently recognized by Appalachian Power’s management for working 41 years without a recordable injury.|
(Story by Teresa Hall)
As a servicer II, there are times Benny Shuff travels up to 250 miles a day through rural Patrick County, Va., in his Appalachian Power Company work truck. But not once in his 41-year career with the company has Shuff been injured on the job or been involved in a preventable vehicle accident.
For Shuff, who’s assigned to the Stuart office, that commitment to safety extends beyond the workplace and into the community. Shuff is a charter member and chief of the Woolwine Volunteer Fire Department in Patrick County. As a leader of the agency, Shuff says he ensures that safety is a priority for his fellow volunteers.
“I tell them to be careful out there on the road and to watch out for others,” Shuff said.
Shuff has served as a fire volunteer for more than 40 years. In that time, he’s received the “Woolwine Officer of the Year” award 12 times. He also received the “Patrick County Fire Officer of the Year” award four times.
Shuff’s commitments to safety in the workplace and in the community have not gone unnoticed by Appalachian Power’s senior management. Last month, Shuff became the second distribution employee to be recognized by Phil Wright, vice president distribution operations, for working his or her entire career at Appalachian Power without a recordable incident.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment and demonstrates Benny’s commitment to safety,” Wright said. “Thank you for staying focused so you can go home safely every day.”
Shuff began work for Appalachian Power immediately after high school. He started his career in the Roanoke division on December 11, 1972, as a clerk in the Fieldale office. Since that time, he’s worked with a line crew, as a meter reader, and in collections before moving into his current job as a servicer II.
CG Stanley, supervisor field services, says Shuff’s approach to life and work makes him an excellent role model for others.
“The key to Benny’s safety record is that he doesn’t get in a rush or hurry,” Stanley said. “He reviews his material and knows what he’s going to do for the day. He recognizes hazards in advance, follows the process, and goes about his work in a steady manner.
‘I extend my sincerest thanks and congratulations to Benny for a job well done at work, at home, and in the community.”
Great-West Financial® has announced plans to acquire J.P. Morgan’s large market Retirement Plan Services business. You may notice this as a change later this year in the company name and logo associated with the recordkeeping and administrative support for the AEP Retirement Savings Plan. This change will not impact your AEP Retirement Savings Plan account and no changes are anticipated in account service.
This announcement does not require you to take any action.
Your toll-free telephone number, website and fund options will not be affected. You will continue to be able to access your AEP Retirement Savings Plan account by calling 1-877-237-4015 or via www.aep401k.com, the retirement savings plan website. Additional information will be provided on AEP Now and at the retirement savings plan website as they become available.
Pending regulatory approval, the transaction is expected to close during the third quarter this year.
(Story by Pamela Busby)
Tax season is in full swing and criminals are seizing the opportunity for scams. Because of the recent major data breaches we’ve seen in the past few months, which exposed sensitive information on a large scale, we should be even more vigilant about taking steps to minimize our risk of ID theft and other online-related crime. Don’t become the next victim.Scammers leverage every means at their disposal to separate you from your money, your identity, or anything else of value they can get. They may offer seemingly legitimate “tax services” designed to steal your identity and your tax refund, sometimes with the lure of bigger write-offs or refunds. Scams may include mocked-up websites and tax forms that look like they belong to the IRS to trick you into providing your personal information.
- requests personal and/or financial information, such as name, SSN, bank or credit card account numbers or security-related information, such as mother’s maiden name, either in the email itself or on another site to which a link in the email directs you;
- includes exciting offers to get you to respond, such as mentioning a tax refund or offering to pay you to participate in an IRS survey;
- threatens a consequence for not responding to the email, such as additional taxes or blocking access to your funds;
- has incorrect spelling for the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agencies;
- uses incorrect grammar or odd phrasing; and
- discusses “changes to tax laws” that include a downloadable document (usually in PDF format) that purports to explain the new tax laws (these downloads are populated with malware that, once downloaded, may infect your computer).
- Submit your tax returns as soon as possible in order to prevent someone else from filing under your name.
- Secure your computer. Make sure your computer has the latest security updates installed. Check that your anti-virus and anti-spyware software are running properly and are receiving automatic updates from the vendor. If you haven’t already done so, install and enable a firewall.
- Carefully select the sites you visit. Safely searching for tax forms, advice on deductibles, tax preparers, and other similar topics requires caution. Do not visit a site by clicking on a link sent in an email, found on someone’s blog, or in an advertisement. The website you land on may look just like the real site, but it may be a well-crafted fake.
- Be wise about Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi hotspots are intended to provide convenient access to the Internet and are not necessarily secure against eavesdropping by hackers. Do not use public Wi-Fi to file your taxes.If the email appears to be from your employer, bank, broker, etc., claiming there is an issue with what they reported for you and you need to verify some information, it might be a scam. Do not respond to the email. Contact the entity directly before responding. Never send sensitive information in an email. It may be intercepted by criminals.
- Use strong passwords. Cyber criminals have developed programs that automate the ability to guess your passwords.To protect yourself, passwords must be difficult for others to guess, but at the same time, easy for you to remember. Passwords should have a minimum of nine characters and include upper case (capital letters), lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure your work passwords are different from your personal passwords.
- Don’t fall prey to email, web, or social networking scams. Common scams tout tax rebates, offer great deals on tax preparation or offer a free tax calculator tool. If you did not solicit the information, it’s likely a scam. If the email claims to be from the IRS, it’s a scam — the IRS will not contact you via email, text messaging or your social network, nor does it advertise on websites.
For additional information about tax related scams and identity theft, visit
Source: Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center
|AEP retiree Bill Ditman (right) and Lindi Andrews, principal of Grace Hardeman Elementary School in Watauga, Texas, display some of the contents of the backpacks that are donated through the Sertoma Club to underprivileged children in the area.|
You can call Bill Ditman a lot of things — a mover and a shaker, a guy who makes things happen, tireless, persistent — but you can never call him “shy.”
That outgoing personality and never-ending drive served Ditman well throughout his 27-year career at AEP. From his first job as a right-of-way maintenance supervisor for Appalachian Power Company in 1961 to his retirement as director of marketing and transportation for AEP Fuel Supply in 1995 (he also had an eight-year break in service where he worked as a self-employed environmental/regulatory consultant), Ditman was the go-to guy when you wanted to get things done, especially when it came to community service.
So it was no big surprise to discover that he found — and filled — a big void in a small community in Texas during his retirement years.
“I have had two passions since retiring in 1995, Sertoma and Russia,” said Ditman, “and I can not explain one without telling of the other.”
While working with a number of associates from Orenburg State University on various educational and cultural-exchange projects, Ditman ran into a young man who asked for help to get into Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. “He was accepted and I realized we needed some money to help him meet expenses,” Ditman recalled. “The Lancaster (Ohio) Sertoma Club was the only organization willing to support an appeal; however, with one little condition…I had to join.
“As a newly minted Sertoman, I asked if Sertoma — which means ‘Service to Mankind’ — could start a club in Russia and not only received a yes but encouragement,” Ditman continued. “My friends at Orenburg State University were interested, and on my next visit we created a Collegiate Sertoma Club at Orenburg State University. Next we built a collegiate club at the new branch campus in Orsk and then a third collegiate club at the campus in Buzuluk.
“Then it was on to the high schools,” he added. “We helped build eight clubs in high schools throughout Orenburg Region. I had the privilege of escorting the president of Sertoma International, and several others, to Orenburg to meet with all the new Sertomans. What a trip!”
In 2004, Ditman and his wife, Beverly, moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to help out their son, who was a single parent with three young girls, and he wanted to stay connected with Sertoma, primarily because of the Russian connection. However, he soon learned that he would have to start a new club.
“Shortly before the big move, I attended Sertoma’s annual convention and met a journalist who worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and told him my story,” Ditman noted. “He immediately said, ‘I know just the place, a city with a population of 23,000 and no civic service clubs, Watauga.’ He then told me he had been tough on the town and wanted to do something good for them.” Watauga, he explained, was a community in transition which resulted in all four public schools being designated Title 1, with over 50 percent of the children from low-income families.
The journalist provided Ditman with an opening and later wrote a column in the Star-Telegram describing his efforts to establish a club in Watauga. It took from October 2004 to March 2006 for Ditman to meet the requirements for chartering.
“I knocked on a lot of doors, shook a lot of hands, made a lot of friends,” he said. “I did not have access to good eclairs (delicious pastries Ditman provided as rewards to those who helped with community service projects in Lancaster during his tenure at Fuel Supply) but there is a very fine restaurant in a gas station in Watauga, so I resorted to treats of crab cakes and bread pudding for the real hot prospects.
“But after the grand banquet, reality set in,” he continued. “We had a club but no real mission other than being good guys.”
Ditman said one of the new Sertomans suggested providing shoes for underprivileged children. While Ditman admitted he was looking for something on more of a grand scale, he suggested that he bring it up at the next next meeting. “He arranged for the school nurse to come and share with us how she was dipping into her own pocket to provide shoes to kids so they could participate in school athletics,” Ditman said. “We, on the spot, adopted what is our signature mission of ‘Shoes for Kids.’ The mission was expanded to include all four schools in Watauga.”
From there, the community outreach exploded. In addition to Shoes for Kids, the bustling Watauga Sertoma Club now spearheads the following activities:
- Sertoma Santa — assists families eligible for support from Christmas Providers but can not be covered because school quotas are not adequate to meet the need.
- Back 2 School — a cooperative program, engaging the entire community, in which 1,000 backpacks are stuffed with basic school supplies and distributed to needy children the week before school starts.
- Camp Jolt — support for a program to ensure all fifth-grade students can participate in the fifth-grade science camp, a three-day outdoor adventure.
- Hearing Health – responds to the needs of the hearing impaired who do not have resources for hearing devices.
- Accessibility Fair – organized annually by the Watauga Public Library to provide information to the public on sources of help such as Sertoma’s Hearing Health program.
“The community now has an active civic club with a focus on serving the needy school children of Watauga,” Ditman concluded. “I am active in recruiting and finding money and still work with my friends in Russia.”
|Archie Smith (left) and Henry L. Brown (right) receive a Good Samaritan Award from SWEPCO Customer Services and Marketing Director Brett Mattison.|
(Story by Kacee Kirschvink)
Three Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) employees were recognized recently for responding to fires in the Shreveport, La., area.
On Feb. 12, meter electricians Henry L. Brown and Archie Smith were en route to a job when they noticed smoke coming from the Cedar Creek Apartments. A group of women were standing outside, and smoke was coming out of an apartment.
The stove was on fire, so the employees quickly retrieved a fire extinguisher from the truck. Brown ran into the apartment and was able to put out the stove fire, but the fire had already spread up the wall into the ceiling. At about that time, the fire department arrived on scene and took over.
For their heroic actions, Brown and Smith each received a Good Samaritan Award.
While presenting the awards, Customer Services and Marketing Director Brett Mattison said the people who work for SWEPCO make the company what it is. He praised the two employees for doing a great job and representing the company well.
“Just imagine the panic in the folks who were seeing that (fire). What they did in their mind is real simple, but if you stop and think about it, they were the calm in the storm, so to speak,” Mattison said. “These two gentlemen stepped up. That’s an awesome job.”
Norcross in right place at right time
SWEPCO meter reader Richard Norcross was given a Good Samaritan Award for saving a man from a house fire and helping the homeowner put out the fire.
On Jan. 21, Norcross, who works in Shreveport, had just pulled up to the customer’s house to read the meter. When he got out of his truck, he smelled smoke. Upon closer inspection, he saw that the roof was on fire near the chimney.
Norcross knocked on the customer’s door, alerted him that his house was on fire and retrieved a fire extinguisher from his truck. He then joined the customer, who had grabbed a water hose, and helped put out the fire.
“Together they put the fire out and stopped the man’s house from burning down,” said Mattison. “Richard will tell you it was no big deal, that anybody would have done that. But I don’t think so. Also, he’s flying the company colors, so just think what that does to customers and what they think about us.”
|Tim Comer, a servicer II in Lynchburg, Va., came to the aid of a customer suffering from a seizure. His quick thinking and compassion on a bitterly cold January afternoon quite possibly saved the man’s life.|
(Story by Teresa Hall)
Colleagues are calling an Appalachian Power Company servicer a hero after his quick thinking and compassion quite possibly saved the life of a customer on a cold winter afternoon. Tim Comer, a servicer II in Lynchburg, Va., had been talking with the homeowner about an overdue electric bill and was about to get back into his work truck when his gut instinct told him not to leave.
It turned out that Comer’s intuition on the afternoon of Jan. 23 was warranted. Comer and the homeowner were talking in the driveway when the man, who was only wearing jeans and a thin shirt on a cold winter day, mentioned that he didn’t feel well.
The wind was howling and the temperatures were in the single digits. Comer encouraged the man to get inside where it was warm. The two said goodbye and Comer turned to go back to his work truck. Comer said he was about to close the door to his vehicle when he noticed that the man was no longer in sight.
“He was gone and I just knew that something wasn’t right. He should’ve still been walking toward his house when I turned to look back at him,” Comer said.
Comer went to the front of his truck where the two had previously been talking. He glanced down and saw that the customer had collapsed and was in severe medical distress. Comer is certified in CPR and said the man, who looked to be in his early 30s, appeared to be having a massive seizure. He was shaking and his limbs had stiffened.
|In March, Comer received the Roanoke district Others’ Keeper award for his actions in the field on January 23.|
Comer said the scariest part was the look on the man’s face. “I was afraid he was dying. His face was blue and his eyes were rolled back.”
Comer ran back to his truck and called 911. He stayed on the phone with the dispatcher to convey information about the man’s condition until paramedics arrived about 10 minutes later. While waiting on the rescue crew, he made certain the customer was breathing and prepared to turn him on his side should he begin to vomit. When paramedics got there, the homeowner began to regain consciousness but was confused and had no memory of what had occurred.
Jim Hines, Roanoke manager distribution support, said Comer’s actions that day don’t surprise him. Were it not for Comer’s quick thinking and compassion, the customer may have suffered frostbite or died given the extreme cold that day.
In March, Comer was presented with the district’s Others’ Keeper award. “I have known Tim a long time and he genuinely cares for others and the public he serves. I am proud of him,” Hines said. “My hat is tipped to Tim and to all of our Others’ Keeper award winners for their pursuit of safety excellence to themselves, their families and the public they serve.”
(Story by Stephen J. Ostrander)
At 71, Tony LaRe may be AEP’s eldest serving professional engineer but the “R” word is “not even on my horizon,” he said, not with bills to pay, a Piper Cherokee airplane to fly and fuss over, and a daughter to get through nursing school. He is not ready to face retirement—getting stale and being idle.
Besides, throwing in the towel may not be an option. The last time he contemplated retirement, back in 2006 when he managed the Columbus municipal power grid, Jeff Fleeman, director of advanced studies and technology for AEP Transmission, lured him back to AEP Transmission. There was a shortage of experienced engineers, Fleeman explained. LaRe gladly accepted the role as a senior engineer.
Career began in Muncie
LaRe started his 34-year AEP career in Muncie, Indiana, in June 1967. In 1971, he transferred to Canton, Ohio, where he worked in protection and control and in power transformers. In the late 70’s, he left the company to work for Ohio Transformer. He came back to AEP as a design supervisor; he was promoted to assistant section head of Electrical Station Design shortly after moving to the Columbus office in 1984. This was followed with a stretch (1995-2001) at AEP’s Ohio coal-fueled generating plant in Conesville, Ohio, as the manager of engineering, He retired from Conesville in 2001.
“That’s where I had the most fun because I got to play with the equipment,” said LaRe. Friends at the plant also got him hooked on aviation. He became a licensed private pilot and bought the Piper Cherokee for flying throughout Ohio and surrounding states for pleasure and to eat at favorite restaurants.
While retired from AEP, he worked for a circuit breaker manufacturer (SqD) and he became the administrator/chief engineer for the City of Columbus’s electric utility. Then one day in January 2006, Fleeman invited him to come out of retirement due to the shortage of electrical engineers to help train and recruit new hires.
Dirty hands bring joy
His latest opportunity provides him with hands-on equipment responsibility with circuit breakers, transformers and voltage regulators.
“Tony is very much energized to do his work and loves the work that he does,” said Al Taylor, manager of station technical services (east) for AEP Transmission.
“Always try to learn something new each week,” LaRe advised younger colleagues. “If you ever stop learning, your value is diminished.”
LaRe’s favorite projects (aside from those mentioned above):
- Participating in the rollout of AEP’s first 765-kilovolt transmission system; installing power transformers system wide.
- Joint effort (while working for the Columbus Municipal Utility) to build the City of Columbus’s first 138-kV gas-insulated substation with AEP on their 138-kV grid.
AEP Service Corporation
George Hivick, 64, AEP Headquarters, died Jan. 14.
Clifton Ayers, 75, retired, John W. Vaughn Center, died Feb. 2.
Charles Fulp, 86, retired, Roanoke Main Office, died Feb. 24.
Harold Lanter, 70, retired, Bluefield Office, died Feb. 17.
Paul McLane, 88, retired, Amos Plant, died Feb. 7.
Charles Yeager, 86, retired, Sporn Plant, died Feb. 12.
Columbus Southern Power
Joseph Buttress, 90, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Feb. 8.
Kenneth Judy, 71, retired, Minerva Annex, died Feb. 16.
Michael McGinnis, 69, retired, Circleville Line Storage Barn, died Feb. 5.
Delbert Murphy, 92, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Feb. 7.
Charles Nease, 73, retired, Gallipolis Service Center, died Feb. 10.
Ronald Preece, 65, Energy Delivery Headquarters, died Feb. 9.
Jimmy Reeves, 81, retired, Athens Service Center, died Feb. 21.
Charles Smith Jr., 65, retired, Mound Street Service Center, died Jan. 27.
Indiana Michigan Power
Floyd Griffith, 74, retired, Marion Service Center, died Feb. 6.
James O’Connell, 94, retired, Rockport Plant, died Feb. 1.
Darren Williams, 46, Cook Nuclear Plant, died Feb. 13.
Gail Crow, 90, retired, Ottawa Service Center, died Feb. 5.
Earl Emler, 90, retired, Steubenville Service Center, died Jan. 30.
Carl Farley, 83, retired, Mitchell Plant, died Feb. 6.
Lynda Longenecker, 57, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Feb. 20.
Charles Thompson, 85, retired, Steubenville Service Center, died Feb. 18.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Robert Fraze, 88, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Feb. 8.
Julie Walker, 41, Tulsa General Office, died Feb. 19.
Southwestern Electric Power
Lawrence Ebarb, 90, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Feb. 19.
Tula Lewis, 84, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Feb. 4.
David Saenz, 59, Turk Power Plant, died Jan. 26.
Joe Hauft, 89, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Feb. 5.
Armando Holguin, 58, Lon Hill Service Center, died Feb. 3.
Mary Hunt, 78, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Feb. 17.
Garland Finch, 83, retired, Abilene General Office, died Feb. 16.
|Roanoke Servicer James Rucker with his 1941 GMC truck, which was used in the film “Wish You Well.” The movie, to be released in theaters this spring, was filmed in southwest Virginia.|
(Story by Allison D. Barker)
When Doc Brown turned a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 into a time machine in “Back to the Future,” few people thought about how that car came to be in the movie. Whether it’s a specialty car like the DeLorean or an antique like Nucky Thompson’s entourage used to load up bootleg liquor in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” such cars seldom belong to the studios but private parties, like Roanoke servicer James Rucker and Human Resources retiree Susan Altizer and her husband, Norman.
|Susan Altizer, who retired from the Roanoke Human Resources Service Center in 2010, poses in front of a poster promoting the film “Wish You Well.”|
With assistance from the Altizers’ business, Classic Picture Car Coordinator Service, Rucker’s 1941 GMC pickup truck was used in the feature film, “Wish You Well.” Much of the movie, based on the novel by David Baldacci, was filmed in southwest Virginia near Pearisburg. It is to be released in theaters this spring.
“My truck was in 18 scenes,” said Rucker, who recently celebrated 33 years with Appalachian Power Company. “It was used as the family’s main vehicle in the film. One of the characters used a wheelchair and they needed an antique truck to haul the wheelchair. I was glad that they were able to use it in the movie. It is one of the most beautiful movies because it was filmed in the fall when all the leaves were turning. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.”
Rucker’s truck was among 32 antique vehicles that Norman Altizer, a retired auto mechanics teacher from Roanoke City Schools, placed in the movie.
“That includes our 1929 Model A Ford,” said Susan Altizer, who retired in 2010 from the Roanoke Human Resources Service Center after 41 years with the company. “And I was recruited to be an extra in the film. … Norman taught the stunt driver how to drive these antique cars and trucks.”
When the Altizers first retired, their love of old cars was just a hobby. Then one day when Norman was at a junk yard, he learned someone affiliated with the movie was looking for antique cars in the area to be used in the film. Next thing he knew, he was working on the film.
|Norman Altizer and his wife, Susan, an HR Service Center retiree, place antique cars in movies. Here Norman is seen with a 1929 Ford used in the film “Wish You Well.”|
“Keeping all the cars going at the same time is a real challenge,” Norman said. “When you are dealing with old cars, they break down a lot. You have to fix it right there on the spot so that they are ready all the time for whatever scene is next.”
The couple is currently working to place vehicles for a miniseries to be filmed by The History Channel. The series, which will take about a year to complete, starts with World War I.
“Retirement has turned out fun and much different than we thought,” Susan said. “We’re having fun.”
AEP River Operations
Robert Farley, AEP River Operations, retired Feb. 1 after 15 years of service.
AEP Service Corporation
Mary Bryant, AEP Headquarters, retired Feb. 1 after 46 years of service.
AEP Utility Operations
James Beller, AEP Headquarters, retired Feb. 1 after 27 years of service.
Ronald Datkuliak, Mitchell Plant, retired Feb. 1 after 26 years of service.
Gerald Freese, AEP Headquarters, retired Feb. 1 after 11 years of service.
Carolyn Shott, Shreveport Office, retired Feb. 1 after 30 years of service.
William Wyatt, Welsh Plant, retired Feb. 14 after 33 years of service.
Indiana Michigan Power
Thomas Armstrong, Muncie Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 25 years of service.
Shirley Burnett-Rox, One Summit Square, retired Feb. 1 after 35 years of service.
Andrew Robb III, South Bend Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 37 years of service.
John Venturino, Williamson Service Center, retired Feb. 4 after 34 years of service.
Policy, Finance and Strategic Planning
Karen Rogers, Baer Field Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 36 years of service.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Gerald Marshall, Lawton Office, retired Feb. 1 after 42 years of service.
Robert Massago, Tulsa General Office, retired Feb. 1 after 19 years of service.
Jeanne Thompson, Tulsa General Office, retired Feb. 8 after 15 years of service.
Diana Rakes, Ashland Service Center, retired Feb. 23 after 33 years of service.
Southwestern Electric Power
Margaret Manning, Shreveport Operations, retired Feb. 4 after 24 years of service.
Daniel McQuiston II, Coshocton Service Center, retired Feb. 13 after 33 years of service.