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AEP’s Outstanding Women: Krystal Hernandez

Krystal Hernandez

AEP is featuring a series of Q&A articles in March – Women’s History Month — to recognize some of the exceptional women in our workforce and among our suppliers. This story features AEP Texas employee Krystal Hernandez, Customer Design manager in Pharr, Texas.  

When Krystal Hernandez started working as a contractor for AEP Texas in 2008, she had no idea where her new journey would lead. But true to her form, Hernandez held steadfast to her faith.

Hernandez, who graduated from the University of Texas Pan American (now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) in 2007 with a degree in mechanical engineering, became a full-time employee in 2012.

In April of 2016, Hernandez made another move as she was named Customer Design manager for the Rio Grande Valley District, overseeing 20 employees. Hernandez said transitioning from being an engineer to a manager was a challenge at first but one that was made easier with the help of her team.

“This job is about being a team player and helping each other accomplish our jobs,” Hernandez said. “I get the most satisfaction and fulfillment out of my role when I can lead by example, coach and help develop my group.”

Outside of her job, Hernandez has been part of a ministry that goes into nursing homes and sings and shares the gospel with residents for the past seven years. She’s also volunteered with Big Brothers and Big Sisters since 2015.

Q: How did you become interested in your career choice?

A: I was always interested in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field as a child and throughout my educational career. I also enjoyed being challenged with problem-solving situations. To me, engineering captured all the above.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge for young women entering the workforce today?

A: The biggest challenge for young women entering the workforce today is that it’s a male-dominated field.  Slowly but surely, however, more women are stepping up to pursue STEM-related careers.

Q: Have you had a role model or mentor earlier in your career or when in school?

A: All my engineering professors cared and showed interest in their students, in particular Dr. Karen Lozano. After taking a class with her, she immediately offered me a job to perform research in her Plastics Lab, where I worked for four years. I also have the honor to work with great people at AEP Texas who dedicated their time to my continuous development.

Krystal Hernandez and Clemente Garza, technician principal in Customer Design, review plan documents.

Also, I have to say my role models and my mentors have been and are still my PARENTS. They have given me their unconditional love and support throughout my career. Growing up they weren’t as fortunate to pursue a higher education due to economic barriers. They’ve taught me to never give up and pursue my dreams and that you will never know until you take that leap of faith. The words that my parents always mentioned are, “Never stop learning. Education is very important. Take advantage of the opportunities you have. Always place God first in everything you plan and do.”

Q: How is your career field different now than it was when you started, especially for women in your field? What things have improved, and what needs more work?

A: As a manager I’m responsible for leading and serving a group of employees. Since I’ve been with AEP Texas, this is the first time I recall a woman holding a manager’s position in Customer Design. This is a great accomplishment and proof to other women that it’s not impossible.

Q: What’s the best career advice you have ever been given, or that you have learned from your experience?

A: The best career advice I’ve been given is to always remain humble and ready to learn. You never know where your career may lead you.

Q: What advice would you give early to mid-career women to encourage them to stay and succeed in their careers?

A: The road may seem bumpy at times, but eventually it pays off through perseverance and effort.

AEP’s Outstanding Women: Carla Simpson

Carla Simpson

AEP  is featuring a series of Q&A articles in March – Women’s History Month — to recognize some of the exceptional women in our workforce and among our suppliers. This story features Carla Simpson, who is director of Employee Education & Growth at Indiana Michigan Power. 

Simpson started her career at I&M as a clerk/cashier in 1988, and was an office clerk until 1996. She was promoted to Customer Service supervisor NE in 1996, administrative associate for Business Services in 1998, Meter Revenue Operations administrator in 2000, budget analyst in 2004, manager of Meter Revenue Operations in 2008 and director of Business Operations Support in 2010. She assumed her current role in 2016.

She holds an Associate degree in Applied Business, Business Administration, The University of Northwestern Ohio (2003), and Bachelor of Science degree, Business Administration, The University of Northwestern Ohio (2005). Simpson also has certification from The Ohio State University Executive Education, and has completed training in AEP Targeted Development Program for Mid-Level Managers, ELI Leadership Lab for Women, and Senn Delaney Leadership Training.

She is involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Lunch Buddy Program, Junior Achievement, and has had a leadership role in Fort Wayne Habitat for Humanity, including traveling to El Salvador in 2012 to help build several houses. She has also been involved in United Way Day of Caring, United Way Read Program, and Study Connection at Abbet Elementary School. She is a member of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) and supports Women’s International Network of Utility Professionals (WiNUP).

Q: How did you become interested in your career choice?

A: I had, and continue to have, a passion to help the company be successful by helping those who work here be successful.

Q: Please use four adjectives to describe yourself in your role at AEP.

A: Energy, Excitement, Passion, Engagement.

Q: What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction/fulfillment and why?

A: The most satisfaction comes from identifying and implementing processes and/or changes that have a positive impact and are beneficial to AEP/I&M, employees, customers and stakeholders.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced and overcome in your career at AEP?

A: The biggest challenge I have faced as a woman is not being heard at times. Sometimes I can make a suggestion or statement and it is overlooked, but another person may make the same suggestion and be heard. This is a challenge that I have not yet overcome but I am working on it. It sometimes requires me to restate what I said or ask for clarity as to how the other person’s suggestion or statement is different from mine.

Q: What activity outside of work gives you the most satisfaction/fulfillment and why?

A: The most satisfaction comes from the time I spend with my lunch buddy through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. This is a program for kindergartners through fifth grade. I cherish the time we spend together playing board games, encouraging her and reading with her.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge for young women entering the workforce today?

A: I think it’s balancing family or home life with the time needed for your career.

Q: Have you had a role model or mentor earlier in your career or when in school?

A: Yes, I have a few mentors; two relatives, a childhood mentor, and a mentor earlier in my career.

Q: How did your role model/mentor impact your career?

A: My biggest role model was my grandmother, who did not let her race or limited finances define who she was a person. She encouraged me to set goals, work hard to achieve them and not to let race, gender or finances be barriers. She said, “Don’t let things limit you.”

Q: How is your career field different now than it was when you started, especially for women in your field? What things have improved, and what needs more work?

A: The opportunities to move up in the company have increased from when I started my career at AEP in 1988. This industry is still dominated by males and it is difficult at times to have your voice be heard as a woman. There needs to be recognition that blind spots and inherent bias exists. While there is progress being made in removing the “glass ceiling,” there is still work to be done to remove it.

Q: What’s the best career advice you have ever been given, or that you have learned from your experience?

A:  The best advice I have been given is “choose your battles.”  I cannot solve every problem and resolve every issue; therefore I must choose those most important areas to spend my time and energy.

Q: What advice would you give to early to mid-career women to encourage them to stay and succeed in their careers?

A:  To establish priorities and recognize that although you value your career, there needs to be a work-life balance. By having a work-life balance, you will have the energy and focus you need when and where you need it.

New Nesting Platforms Placed to Attract Ospreys Away From Cook Plant Emergency Sirens

Workers prepare to install a new osprey nesting platform.

(Story by Bill Schalk)

Cook Nuclear Plant, Berrien County Parks and the Berrien Birding Club are joining forces to install three pole-top osprey nesting platforms to deter the migratory birds from nesting on a Cook Emergency Siren. For the last several seasons, ospreys have used the siren on Madron Lake Road near Glendora Road as their spring and summer home.

The issue is that the Cook Nuclear Plant has a federal requirement to keep the sirens operational, and that includes monthly testing. Having these osprey nests on top of them could potentially interfere with siren maintenance or operation. However, the birds have a government mandate, too. The Federal Migratory Bird Act prohibits hunting, capturing or otherwise interfering with the birds’ migration or nesting. Therein lies the rub: protecting both birds and sirens without ruffling any federal feathers.

“Unfortunately, the Madron Lake siren is a perfect spot for an osprey nest – lots of wide open space and several nearby small lakes where the fish-eating raptors can obtain food for their young,” said Kip Miller, manager of Berrien County’s Love Creek Nature Center and Berrien Birding Club president. “Apparently the siren noise doesn’t bother them too much because they keep coming back.”

There are 50 sirens that cover a 10-mile radius around the plant. They are in place in order to notify the public in the event of an emergency at the plant or a weather-related event.

“Obviously, our commitment to the health and safety of the people living near the plant comes first, but we respect the rights of the birds as well,” said Bill Schalk, Cook Plant spokesman. “When they kept coming back, we decided to offer them some other quieter nesting options.”

Cook is paying for the poles and installation, the Berrien Birding Club chipped in for the wood to build the nesting platforms and Miller added his expertise in picking the new locations.

“We recognize this creates a potential problem for the Cook Plant and really appreciate the cooperative spirit of their staff in working to resolve the issue for all. And the fact they are installing two additional poles and platforms is an extra bonus,” Miller said.

Cook Environmental Technician Blair Zordell initiated the effort, built the nests and obtained the rights for the new locations and permitting.

“I ride my bike a lot on this road and I felt bad for the birds. Those sirens are loud – over 100 decibels at 100 feet away,” said Zordell. “The new locations should be just as good as the siren. We might even attract another pair of ospreys.”

The birds should be arriving very soon. There will be nesting deterrents on top of the Madron Lake Road siren to convince them to look elsewhere this year. The new platforms should offer an attractive alternative that will accommodate these feathered friends just fine.

January Retirements

AEP Ohio

Joseph Burton, Canton South Service Center, retired Jan. 6 after 37 years of service.

Linda Pennybaker, Tiffin Service Center, retired Jan. 1 after 28 years of service.

AEP River Transportation Division

Jackie Wood, River Transportation Division, retired Jan. 1 after 22 years of service.

AEP Service Corporation

Joe Cisneros, AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 7 after 10 years of service.

William Kriebel, AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 7 after 29 years of service.

John Popovich, AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 10 after 16 years of service.

James Reed, United Science Testing Inc., retired Jan. 21 after 23 years of service.

Gregory Steger, Newark Service Building, retired Jan. 7 after 35 years of service.

Stephen Thomas, AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 1 after 37 years of service.

AEP Texas

Terry Finlay, Electric System Operations, retired Jan. 28 after 38 years of service.

Charles Lee, Victoria Service Center, retired Jan. 1 after 30 years of service.

Macario Melchor, Abilene Distribution, retired Jan. 24 after 36 years of service.

Daniel Rendon, Corpus Christi Office, retired Jan. 14 after 25 years of service.

Vincent Scaramuzzo, Electric System Operations, retired Jan. 28 after 35 years of service.

Appalachian Power Company

Donna Price, Logan Service Company, retired Jan. 7 after 33 years of service.

Generation

Dale Callahan, Cardinal Plant, retired Jan. 21 after 26 years of service.

Stuart Farris, Cook Coal Terminal, retired Jan. 30 after 38 years of service.

Michael Foughty, Conesville Plant, retired Jan. 1 after 45 years of service.

Chryle Gory, Cardinal Plant, retired Jan. 1 after 31 years of service.

Kevin Johnston, Cardinal Plant, retired Jan. 1 after 31 years of service.

Leon Kelly, Dolet Hills Lignite Mine, retired Jan. 21 after 25 years of service.

David Kempf, Pirkey Plant, retired Jan. 18 after 11 years of service.

Larry Mees, Gavin Plant, retired Jan. 7 after 31 years of service.

Ricky Moore, Gavin Plant, retired Jan. 7 after 37 years of service.

Brian Mutz, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired Jan. 6 after 41 years of service.

Joe Procell, Dolet Hills Lignite Mine, retired Jan. 2 after 15 years of service.

Paul Rine, Mitchell Plant, retired Jan. 6 after 42 years of service.

Douglas Sands, Gavin Plant, retired Jan. 31 after 39 years of service.

Charles Stanley Jr., Mountaineer Plant, retired Jan. 21 after 35 years of service.

Bret Stapleton, Big Sandy Plant, retired Jan. 10 after 39 years of service.

Jeffrey Tilly, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired Jan. 7 after 36 years of service.

Jessie West, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired Jan. 4 after 24 years of service.

William Williams, Amos Plant, retired Jan. 17 after 42 years of service.

Indiana Michigan Power Company

Gregory Clark, Michigan State President’s Office, retired Jan. 28 after 31 years of service.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Ann Coatney, Tulsa General Office, retired Jan. 10 after 17 years of service.

Dave Compston, Northern Division Operations Center, retired Jan. 7 after 37 years of service.

Robert Copeland Jr., Northeastern Station 3&4, retired Jan. 12 after 18 years of service.

William Kerr, Tulsa General Office, retired Jan. 14 after 38 years of service.

James Snow, Tulsa General Office, retired Jan. 28 after 33 years of service.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

Ricky Kendrick, Arsenal Hill Plant, retired Jan. 10 after 12 years of service.

Transmission

Gary Carlson, St. Joseph Service Center, retired Jan. 14 after 43 years of service.

Grover Conner, John W. Vaughan Center, retired Jan. 14 after 38 years of service.

Robert Lane, John W. Vaughan Center, retired Jan. 27 after 42 years of service.

John McRobie, Welsh Plant, retired Jan. 7 after 35 years of service.

Paul Miller, Kingsport Service Center, retired Jan. 1 after 43 years of service.

Obituaries

AEP River Transportation Division

Emma Fisher, 85, retired, River Transportation Division, died Jan. 21.

John Savitz, 52, AEP River Operations-Paducah, died Oct. 16.

AEP Service Corporation

Larry Edelman, 79, retired, AEP Headquarters, died Feb. 15.

Richard Hayek, 59, AEP Headquarters, died Feb. 4.

Borys Kuchynsky, 91, retired, AEP Headquarters, died Feb. 4.

Thomas Massar, 88, retired, AEP Headquarters, died Jan. 2.

Vincent Sparano, 92, retired, AEP Headquarters, died Jan. 13.

Harry Vick, 78, retired, AEP Headquarters, died Jan. 29.

Appalachian Power Company

Millard Callicoat, 74, retired, Huntington Office, died Feb. 15.

Jesse Frazier Jr., 94, retired, Kanawha River Plant, died Dec. 29.

Duard Garrison, 89, retired, Glen Lyn Plant, died Jan. 29.

George Gott, 88, retired, Kingsport Service Center, died Jan. 2.

Bernard Hoffman, 94, retired, Sporn Plant, died Feb. 2.

Ronald Horne, 74, retired, Roanoke Service Building, died Jan. 16.

Bernard Middaugh, 92, retired, Bb&T Building, died Jan. 10

Garnet Mullins, 77, retired, Clintwood Office, died Jan. 27.

John Romans, 70, Bluefield (W.Va.) Service Center, died Dec. 18.

David Rutherford, 73, retired, Sporn Plant, died Jan. 16.

Roger Sharp, 64, Sporn Plant, died Feb. 19.

Billy Thomas, 85, retired, Sporn Plant, died Feb. 8.

Columbus Southern Power Company

Timothy Blair, 62, Conesville Plant, died Feb. 20.

Gordon Crawley, 87, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Dec. 27.

Donald Gatwood, 87, retired, Chillicothe Office, died Jan. 5.

Jay Hill, 78, retired, Columbus Southwest Service Center, died Feb. 22.

Helen Isham, 78, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Feb. 19.

David Jennings, 80, retired, Conesville Plant, died Jan. 5.

Paul Parks, 71, Mound Street Service Center, died Jan. 26.

James Poorman, 64, Conesville Plant, died Jan. 1.

Neil Reed, 90, retired, Picway Plant, died Feb. 12.

Indiana Michigan Power Company

Betty Adams, 90, retired, One Summit Square, died Jan. 2.

Herbert Beck, 92, retired, One Summit Square, died Jan. 8.

Philip Benifiel, 92, retired, Mishawaka Hydro, died Jan. 20.

Bradley Collins, 38, South Bend Service Center, died Feb. 7.

Charles Dyke, 83, retired, Muncie Service Center, died Jan. 19.

Robert Hamilton, 90, retired, Three Rivers Service Center, died Jan. 24.

Ned Hildebrand, 70, Tanners Creek Plant, died Jan. 23.

Bernard Housemeyer, 91, retired, Tanners Creek Plant, died Jan. 3.

George Junk, 91, retired, Spy Run Service Center, died Jan. 20.

Joseph Miller Jr., 89, retired, Three Rivers Service Center, died Jan. 19.

Merle Terhune, 87, retired, Decatur Service Center, died Jan. 5.

Kentucky Power Company

Talmadge Debord, 92, retired, Robert E. Matthews Service Center, died Feb. 14.

Phyllis McGuire, 82, retired, Robert E. Matthews Service Center, died Feb. 21.

Ohio Power Company

William Boltz Jr., 69, Kammer Plant, died Jan. 4.

Eileen Clark, 88, retired, Belmont Service Center, died Jan. 12.

Elmer Cunningham, 86, retired, Muskingum River Plant, died Dec. 30.

Ted Majeski, 86, retired, Kammer Plant, died Jan. 22.

Bennie McLeod, 93, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Jan. 27.

Helen Moore, 80, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Jan. 20.

Richard Ramsey, 90, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Jan. 2.

Melvin Roth, 70, retired, Cardinal Plant, died Jan. 11.

Lynn Shull, 73, retired, Bucyrus Service Center, died Feb. 26.

Richard Stine, 76, Findlay Service Center, died Jan. 8.

Honus Stollar, 83, retired, Kammer Plant, died Jan. 6.

Donald Yoho, 82, retired, Southern Ohio Coal Company, died Jan. 11.

Louis Zackey, 88, retired, Cardinal Plant, died Feb. 6.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

James Black, 78, retired, Clinton Operations, died Jan. 29.

Jackie Frazier, 84, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Dec. 30.

Edward Gastineau, 84, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Jan. 12.

Erich Gause, 70, Tulsa General Office, died Feb. 5.

Harrell Harwell, 91, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Feb. 7.

Marvin McCormick, 79, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Jan. 19.

Jack Patrick, 77, retired, Hollis Service Center, died Feb. 24.

Lyman Schlosser, 84, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Jan. 8.

William Turley, 85, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Jan. 25.

Garyal Whitener, 74, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Jan. 30.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

Jack Guinn, 86, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Feb. 13.

Romie Ray, 77, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Jan. 31.

Charles Webster, 93, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Feb. 13.

Texas Central

R. L. Breckenridge, 66, Lipan Service Center, died Dec. 29.

M.C. Helms, 87, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Feb. 16.

Ulysses Screws Jr., 65, Victoria Service Center, died Jan. 29.

Texas North

P.R. Black, 85, retired, Abilene General Office, died Jan. 21.

John Caudle, 82, retired, Abilene General Office, died Feb. 10.

E.R. Davis, 86, retired, Abilene General Office, died Jan. 27.

E.M. Knight, 85, retired, Abilene General Office, died Feb. 3.

Linda Mayfield, 73, retired, Abilene General Office, died Jan. 30.

Silvester Tonche Jr., 62, Abilene Distribution, died Jan. 3.

Transmission

John Morris, 37, Chillicothe Transmission/Telecom, died Feb. 8.

February Retirements

AEP Ohio

Steven Chambers, Athens Service Center, retired Feb. 11 after 40 years of service.

Garry Deskins, Mound Street Service Center, retired Feb. 4 after 13 years of service.

Robert Ivinskas, Central Operations Center, retired Feb. 24 after 37 years of service.

Christopher Kelly, Lancaster Service Building, retired Feb. 18 after 27 years of service.

Maria Martinez, Findlay Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 42 years of service.

Susan Nees, Van Wert Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 34 years of service.

Wendell Skelley, Canton Northeast Service Center, retired Feb. 11 after 38 years of service.

David Stoffer, Canton General Service Center, retired Feb. 11 after 43 years of service.

Carl Vance, Chillicothe Service Center, retired Feb. 7 after 28 years of service.

James Wilson, Energy Delivery Headquarters-Gahanna, retired Feb. 25 after 37 years of service.

AEP Service Corporation

Roh Hardin, AEP Headquarters, retired Feb. 25 after 18 years of service.

Michael Higgins, Home Worksite-Florida, retired Feb. 1 after 39 years of service.

Mary Loprire, AEP Headquarters, retired Feb. 18 after 15 years of service.

AEP Texas

Sam Hunt, T&D Operations, retired Feb. 18 after 31 years of service.

Joel McMinn Jr., Southwest Distribution System-San Angelo, retired Feb. 1 after 42 years of service.

Sam Ramirez, Vernon Service Center, retired Feb. 25 after 28 years of service.

Donald Thompson, Abilene Meter Services, retired Feb. 18 after 42 years of service.

Appalachian Power Company

John Denzie, North Charleston Service Center, retired Feb. 14 after 26 years of service.

Steven Gregory, Beckley Service Center, retired Feb. 11 after 36 years of service.

Rita Oakes, Roanoke Service Building, retired Feb. 1 after 34 years of service.

Clifford Powell, Smith Mountain Hydro, retired Feb. 24 after 31 years of service.

Anita Wiley, Roanoke Main Office, retired Feb. 25 after 38 years of service.

Generation

Randy Beckort, Rockport Plant, retired Feb. 27 after 29 years of service.

Michael Demartin, Cardinal Plant, retired Feb. 11 after 37 years of service.

Ceyton Embry Jr., Rockport Plant, retired Feb. 11 after 33 years of service.

William Gillespie, Amos Plant, retired Feb. 18 after 27 years of service.

Donald Hamrick, Amos Plant, retired Feb. 25 after 37 years of service.

Anthony Helms, Welsh Plant, retired Feb. 1 after 23 years of service.

Edward Janoski, Rockport Plant, retired Feb. 11 after 29 years of service.

Roger McDade, Mountaineer Plant, retired Feb. 11 after 39 years of service.

Michael McDaniel, Rockport Plant, retired Feb. 4 after 31 years of service.

Indiana Michigan Power Company

Gary McClain, Three Rivers Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 37 years of service.

Kimberly Reeder, One Summit Square, retired Feb. 24 after 34 years of service.

Sharon Smothers, South Bend Service Center, retired Feb. 11 after 43 years of service.

Kentucky Power Company

Orville Adkins Jr., Robert E. Matthews Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 42 years of service.

Dale Hamilton, Pikeville Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 43 years of service.

Clifford Heighton, Robert E. Matthews Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 17 years of service.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Robin Bradley, Tulsa General Office, retired Feb. 10 after 36 years of service.

Debra Williams, Tulsa General Office, retired Feb. 11 after 39 years of service.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

Kenneth Maniscalco, Shreveport Operations, retired Feb. 14 after 34 years of service.

Gayla Maroney, Natchitoches Service Center, retired Feb. 11 after 38 years of service.

David Marshall, Mt. Pleasant Service Center, retired Feb. 11 after 33 years of service.

Calvin Robinson, Mt. Pleasant Service Center, retired Feb. 11 after 24 years of service.

Richard Scheidt, Greenwood Service Center, retired Feb. 25 after 27 years of service.

Transmission

Douglas Turner, John W. Vaughan Center, retired Feb. 28 after 39 years of service.

SWEPCO Employees Help Raise Money for Special Eyeglasses for Co-Worker’s Son

Christian Cardenas is overjoyed with his new special eyeglasses.

(Story by Scott McCloud)

Christian’s story as told by his mother, Sylvia Cardenas, Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) administrative associate, storeroom and fleet in Longview, Texas:

When Christian was 11 weeks old, the doctors told us he would see little to nothing due to a condition called Septo Optic Dysplasia. Nothing was wrong with his actual eyes but his optic nerves were just too small to send messages to his brain. Christian gets around really well with his condition, but I did not realize how impaired his eyesight was until I picked him up on the first day of school and he ran in the opposite direction toward a group of girls and got very close to them. I thought he was going to kiss this girl he was so close to her! I saw Christian every day, yet I didn’t realize he couldn’t see us that well at all.

We were so excited when our family found out about eSight Corporation last year through a support group on Facebook. We made an appointment for a consultation and traveled to Dallas on November 26, 2016, to try on the glasses. To our amazement, THEY WORKED! Christian was so amazed with the details of the ceiling that he could not stop laughing. My personal goal was for him to have the glasses by the time he entered kindergarten in August 2018.

After coming home from Dallas, I told my SWEPCO co-workers how awesome it was to see my son see things clearly for the first time. They thought it was great and were excited for us. I had no idea what would happen next. Lisa Whitten, Longview stores attendant, came back in less than a month and put a package on my desk. I opened it and found $3,487 that her friends raised at their annual fundraising Christmas gathering. I just couldn’t believe it! Another co-worker, Josie Henderson, senior administrative assistant, AEP Transmission, Longview, started a fundraising page for employees and the community that featured a hamburger benefit and a raffle, bringing in $4,252 – exceeding the funds needed to purchase the $15,000 eSight glasses!

To our complete surprise, money was raised for Christian’s glasses in less than three months. And eSight unveiled their latest version of the glasses the very day the fundraising finished. The glasses feature a high-definition camera on the front that can zoom up to 24 times and instantly process images to display on two super high-definition screens inside the glasses for the wearer. The glasses can only help those who are considered legally blind but have some vision.

SWEPCO customer service reps (from left) Jason Howeth, Sue Haynes, Carolyn and Scott Hampton passed out Louie safety visors to all the kids at the school.

Jeff Fenton, marketing director for eSight, made a special trip from Canada to Sabine Elementary School in Liberty City, Texas, March 3 to present the new glasses to Christian. At the assembly, Jimmy Skeen, SWEPCO fleet supervisor, presented an electrical safety powerTown demo and gave Christian his own AEP hard hat. In attendance were his family, Sylvia and husband, Gerardo, sister Victoria, age three, and brother George, who just turned one, along with other family members, his classmates, teachers, SWEPCO employees, Louie the Lighting Bug mascot, three area TV stations and a newspaper, and other glasses sponsors, including Holt Caterpillar in Longview, which brought out a back hoe since Christian loves construction equipment.

Sylvia concluded: My goal for Christian is for him to have everything he needs to learn as much as he can. Christian is curious by nature and loves to know how things work. With these glasses, the possibilities are endless! I will forever be thankful for my co-workers and this community. When I fill out our AEP culture surveys, it’s just not possible to explain how wonderful the people are that make SWEPCO such a great place to work. These people I work with are my family; and they are Christian’s family, too.

View a video of Christian receiving his new special glasses.

Story by Scott McCloud. Photos and video by Karen Wissing.

AEP Unveils New Logos, Repositions for the Future

At today’s Leadership Summit, Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, announced a new company brand, including a new position, vision, mission, logo and tagline.

(Story by Betsy Sewell)

At today’s Leadership Summit in Tulsa, Okla., Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, announced a new company brand, including a new position, vision, mission, logo and tagline.

The process began a year ago when Akins, along with the executive team, initiated a review to learn how the company should position itself to ensure future success and meet customers’ expectations.

“I asked Corporate Communications to start examining our brand and to help position us to become an energy company of the future,” said Akins.

At the summit, Teresa McWain, director, Corporate Communications, discussed the results of the effort.

“Over the last year, we conducted extensive customer research to inform our recommendations which culminated in repositioning the company and, ultimately, creating a reinvigorated identity to help propel AEP into the future,” said McWain.

In addition to gaining feedback from customers, leaders at every operating company shared perspectives about the future of energy, the state of the AEP and operating company brand, as well as customer relationships. The work informed a new corporate brand position as well as vision and mission statements. Akins said that he’s proud of the history of our company and that the new position of our brand builds upon our history and will move us forward for decades to come.

“Together, with our customers and within every one of our communities, we’re working to create the energy company of the future,” said McWain. “This statement will serve as an internal guide to help maintain focus on the brand and inform decisions across all business units.”

Akins and McWain then unveiled vision and mission statements to communicate our position externally. These statements demonstrate to customers, communities and to each employee our aspirations.

The new logo style will be reflected in each AEP operating company and business unit logo, as well.

Vision

Powering a new and brighter future for our customers and communities.

Mission

Together, with our customers, we are redefining the future of energy and developing innovative solutions that power communities and improve lives.

Building upon the foundation of the new position, vision and mission, McWain explained that the brand look and feel would also change, beginning with an evolved logo and tagline that unite us as one company.

“We need a look that embodies the spirit of our new position,” said McWain. “The logo, along with the tagline — Boundless Energy — shows our customers and communities that we are committed to progress and our energy to succeed is boundless.”

“This logo evolution gives a nod to our past and shows that we’re one unified company. Together, we’re moving forward,” said Akins. “I want all employees to join me in becoming a brand ambassador of the company because we’re the builders and keepers of the brand. As you work each day, think of our vision and mission to help guide your efforts. Let’s show that we approach our work with our customers in mind and do so with boundless energy.”

The rollout of the new brand will occur over time, with digital properties and corporate advertising changing immediately.

View the “Brand Essence” video.

Flooding Helps Triple Disaster Relief Fund Awards in 2016

The worst flooding in West Virginia in more than a century during 2016 claimed at least 25 lives, damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands of residents unsure if or when they would be able to return to their homes.

(Story by Barry Schumann)

Louisiana and West Virginia flooding and several house fires made 2016 a very busy year for the AEP Emergency Disaster Relief Fund (EDRF), which is funded by employees via payroll deductions.

In all, 34 grants totaling $87,808 were made to active or retired AEP employees in 2016.  Both numbers were more than triple 2015 figures. The grants brought to nearly $260,000 the total awarded to employees in moments of need since 2010.

The AEP EDRF was created in 2002 with a contribution from AEP to help employees in time of demonstrated financial need. The fund provides an ongoing mechanism for employees to contribute to the needs of fellow active and retired employees when personal disaster or crisis strikes.

Regular contributions to the fund come primarily from employees who donate via regular payroll deduction. At the end of 2016, nearly 500 employees were making contributions via payroll.

For information on downloading an application for assistance, visit https://aepretirees.com/other-retiree-sites/.

Situations addressed by the fund in 2016 were almost equally divided between natural disasters, including the widespread West Virginia flooding in June and Louisiana flooding in August, and personal tragedies including house fires, medical illness or injury, and accidents, according to The Salvation Army in Columbus, which administers the fund. One grant was awarded in a case of the death of an immediate family member. Four applications were declined because they did not meet fund guidelines.

The fund awards up to $3,000 per grant. The average grant was $2,582 in 2016. Over the past five years, the average annual grant total was $40,600 with a low of $14,691 in 2013 and a high of $87,808 last year.

Grant recipients may request anonymity, but are asked to share feedback through satisfaction surveys. More than 70 percent said they learned about the relief fund from a co-worker or supervisor, and 20 percent heard about the fund through Human Resources or AEP Now.

Following were among quotes shared with The Salvation Army:

  • “The program was such a blessing to my family and I during the flood. Application was straight forward. Response and assistance were very timely.”
  • “The person who handled my request was amazing.  When she called me it was such an indescribable feeling that came over me. My own personal angel. She was awesome.”
  • “I am truly grateful for the assistance provided during this time of struggle for my family. Thank you … for your generous gift.”
  • “With the loss of our house (and) everything inside, this relief assistance (helped) in getting clothing and school supplies to keep my children and granddaughter from missing a beat with their schooling while the wife and I worked to get other stuff situated. Thanks.
  • “It was expedient and without tons of red tape to fill out. Thank you so much. I am very grateful.”

 

Special Disaster Relief Fund in 2016

The AEP EDRF also from time to time initiates special campaigns to provide relief for major disasters domestically or around the world. Donations from employees during these special collections may be matched by the American Electric Power Foundation. Special relief funds are typically directed to the American Red Cross, UNICEF, The Salvation Army, or other non-profit relief providers to provide needed assistance in impacted areas.

Employees in 2016 donated $57,252 for relief efforts surrounding West Virginia flooding and $10,740 for Louisiana flood relief efforts. Employee donations were matched by the AEP Foundation, resulting in a total of $128,732 to address flood relief efforts. Funds were distributed to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army in both regions. Since inception, AEP and the AEP Foundation have matched more than $578,000 in special relief effort donations.

Employees Who Pulled a Severely Injured Child From a Wrecked Vehicle Named APCo’s 2016 Others’ Keeper of the Year

From left, Eddie Kilgore, line crew supervisor; Terry Roberts, line mechanic A; 4-year-old Charlee Taylor; and Brandon Bradley, line mechanic A. Photo by Rick Tunnell.

(Story by Teresa Hall)

KINGSPORT, Tenn. — It was a warm sunny day when Kingsport Line Mechanic Brandon Bradley heard a loud crash while replacing a transformer. He immediately directed the crew below toward the direction of the sound. As Line Crew Supervisor Eddie Kilgore rounded the building, he spotted the crumpled metal and shattered glass.

The driver of an SUV had struck a City of Kingsport brush-grabber truck parked along the road. Kilgore headed toward the crash and as he got closer he saw the driver get out of the SUV. She was screaming, “My baby, my baby!” The woman’s 4-year-old daughter, Charlee, was trapped in the back in a child safety seat.

As Kilgore assessed the damage, Bradley and fellow Line Mechanic Terry Roberts caught up to him. Smoke was coming from the SUV and there was growing concern that the vehicle would catch fire. They knew they had to act quickly.

Most of the damage from the crash occurred on the child’s side. The chains attached to the tailgate of the brush grabber were resting on Charlee’s legs and she was clearly injured. The three employees and a fourth Good Samaritan worked as a team and safely removed Charlee from the rear of the SUV.

A photo of the damaged SUV. Charlee was seated on the rear passenger side, which sustained much of the damage.

Kilgore later told his coworkers he knew Charlee’s injuries were severe. As Kilgore held her head to keep her still until emergency personnel arrived, he said he felt the broken bones in her face each time she moved. The little girl suffered multiple facial fractures, lacerations to her face and a broken arm, but since last June has made a full recovery.

The crew developed an instant bond with Charlee and her parents and continue to stay in contact since the crash. It is a bond so close that Rick Tunnell, Kingsport distribution systems supervisor, said Charlee refers to Roberts as “PaPaw.”

When Phil Wright, vice president distribution operations, last week named the Kingsport crew the APCo Distribution 2016 Others’ Keeper of the Year winner at a meeting in Bluefield, West Virginia, he commended the three for their actions.

“The crew could’ve easily looked the other way, but they didn’t,” said Wright. “They took the lead and their actions that day brought comfort to a hurt child and her distraught mother. I’m extremely proud to present them with this award.”