American Public Power Association Individual Leadership Awards
Alex Radin Distinguished Service Award
This award, initiated in 1953, was the first major award given by the American Public Power Association. It was renamed the Alex Radin Distinguished Service Award in 1986 to honor Alex Radin, who served as the Association's executive director from 1951 to 1986. It is the highest award granted by the Association and is bestowed in recognition of exceptional leadership in and dedication to public power.
Eligibility: Any official of an Association member utility who has been active in the Association for at least 10 years is eligible. Current officers of the Association's Board of Directors are not eligible until their terms have expired. Officers are defined as chair, immediate past chair, chair-elect, vice chair, and treasurer.
Criteria: Nominees should have demonstrated leadership and made contributions to public power locally and nationally; be recognized by their peers; exemplify the highest ideals and finest traditions in management; and have made contributions to the betterment of the community, the region, and the nation.
Paula DiFonzo has spent more than 35 years advocating for the interests of public power at the local, regional and national level. Prior to retiring earlier this year, Paula spent 23 years as the CEO of New Braunfels Utilities in Texas where she managed the city’s electric, water and wastewater systems. Her skilled leadership kept NBU in a strong fiscal position that has enabled the utility to make capital investments to maintain reliability, keep rates low, and strategically plan for the future. Regionally, she served as a long-time member of the Texas Public Power Association’s board of directors—including a stint as the board’s president. She joined the American Public Power Association’s board in 2006 and served as board chair for 2014-2015. During her tenure as board chair, she stressed a message of community service to public power systems across the nation.
Gil C. Quiniones has spent the last 14 years deeply involved in a wide range of cutting-edge public power issues. He has served as a senior executive at the New York Power Authority since 2007, where he is now president and CEO. At NYPA, he has led the nation’s largest state electric utility on a new journey of discovery, inspiring the entire organization and playing a pivotal role in the transformation of electric generation and transmission in New York State. He also serves as a member of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet, advising on state energy policy. Prior to NYPA was the lead energy official in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration from 2003 to 2007. He is a member of the Large Public Power Council’s Steering Committee, recently served as chair of the Electric Power Research Institute, and in December was named chair of the Alliance to Save Energy’s board of directors.
James D. Donovan Individual Achievement Award
This award honors James D. Donovan, of Kansas City, Kansas, one of the founders of the American Public Power Association and its first president. It was initiated in 1959 and recognizes those who have made great individual contributions to the electric utility industry and to public power.
Eligibility: Any employee of an Association member utility who has been an active participant in Association affairs for at least five years is eligible.
Criteria: Nominees should have contributed to the electric utility industry generally through their achievements or sustained performance; have contributed substantially to public power; and have been widely recognized within the Association.
Phillip “Doc” Mueller has served the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency and its 32 public power utilities for the past three decades. A skilled communicator, he has worked throughout his career to educate village mayors, city engineers, and state and federal officials on issues ranging from the advantages of the public power business model to the intricacies of regional transmission organization markets. In 2005, he coordinated IMEA’s management agreement with that of the Illinois Municipal Utilities Association, effectively unifying the strength of the state’s public power utilities behind the American Public Power Association’s legislative efforts. Doc has served for years as an active member of the Association’s Advisory Committee, helping to hone national policy positions on behalf of all public power utilities.
Anthony “Tony” Ward retired this past year as general manager of Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission after more than 30 years at the Minnesota utility. In 1988, soon after becoming general manager, Tony got involved with the American Public Power Association, particularly embracing the Association’s educational offerings. Regionally, he was active with the Minnesota Municipal Utility Association, helping to support annexation initiatives, a regional training facility in Marshall, Minnesota, and taking a role in preparing for the Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo in 2016. Tony was proud to treat his customers as stockholders of the utility, making it a priority to maximize their return on investment. His legacy of low-cost, reliable service lives on at GRPUC.
Larry Hobart Seven Hats Award
This award was initiated in 1966 to recognize utility managers who serve in the nation’s smaller communities and whose variety of management responsibilities extends well beyond those of a manager in a larger system with a larger staff. It was renamed the Larry Hobart Seven Hats Award in 1995 to honor Larry Hobart, who served as the American Public Power Association's executive director from 1986 to 1995.
Eligibility: A superintendent or manager of any Association member utility serving no more than 2,500 electric meters for at least five years is eligible.
Criteria: Nominees must possess skills in the following seven areas: planning and design; administration; public relations; field supervision; accounting; human resources; and community leadership.
Johnnie Burns has served as electric and water superintendent for the village of Yellow Springs, Ohio, for three years. Described by colleagues as “the very definition of a working superintendent,” Johnnie personally responds to citizen concerns and provides positive leadership to his staff. Working on both the electric and water distribution systems, he takes a hands-on approach, which brings him into the field with his crews daily. He performs field duties ranging from flagging traffic to climbing utility poles, all while managing the village’s 4.5 million dollar electric budget. He also plans and helps design improvements for the utility’s multiple systems, including a one-megawatt solar array.
Ron Clodfelter joined Las Animas Municipal Light and Power in Colorado in 1984 as a power plant operator, and became electric superintendent in 2010. He supervises all work on the distribution and transmission systems, as well as the operation of an emergency generation plant. He has also spearheaded efforts to update street lights—in the city and along the adjacent state highway—to efficient LEDs. A strong believer in the power of community, Ron supports and encourages the use of utility personnel and equipment for community non-profit projects. He is active with the Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities and serves on the Board of Directors of the Arkansas River Power Authority.
Shawn Guidice is utilities superintendent for Rising Sun Municipal Utilities in Indiana. In his role, he is responsible for managing all planning and design aspects for the community’s electric, water and wastewater utilities. Shawn has been instrumental in both the day-to-day management of the utilities as well as long-term projects, including infrastructure upgrades across all three utilities. He created a succession planning initiative to prepare a new generation of personnel for public utility service. He prides himself on being an advocate for his employees and can often be found working alongside them during power outages or maintenance projects.
Mike New has served as the city manager of Newberry, Florida, for the past three years. After joining Newberry, one of his first actions was to develop a disaster response plan with county emergency managers. Soon after, the plan was put to good use in responding to Hurricane Hermine, which damaged local infrastructure resulting in all the utility’s customers losing power. The plan helped restore power to the city in less than 24 hours. Mike has embraced social media as a platform for reaching customers. The city now regularly posts energy saving tips, safety messages, and outage information. He is the immediate past president of the Florida Municipal Electric Association’s Board of Directors and a member of its executive committee.
Dave Slezickey serves as the city manager for Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Known for his hands-on approach, Dave works with his team across electric, water and wastewater projects. The city recently completed the installation of a new billing system that can provide customers more information on their energy usage based on electronic metering data. In 2015, he led the community’s first celebration of Public Power Week, spreading the word about the benefits of community-owned public power. He has served as a board member for the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, and, in 2016, he served as the president of the Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma, the state’s public power trade association.
Harold Kramer-John Preston Personal Service Award
In 1959, the Association initiated this award in honor of Harold Kramer, of Loup River Public Power District, Columbus, Nebraska, who played a leading role in the formation of the American Public Power Association and served as its first executive secretary and general manager from 1941 to mid-1942. In 1969, the APPA Board of Directors changed this award to also honor John Preston, of Loup River Public Power District, first vice president of the Association. This award recognizes service to the Association.
Eligibility: Any employee of an Association member utility who has actively participated in the Association for at least five years is eligible.
Criteria: Nominees should have made substantial contributions toward: attaining the Association goals; or enhancing its national prestige.
Arthur J. (Grant) Lacerte, Jr. has been active in the American Public Power Association since he joined Kissimmee Utility Authority in Florida in 2002. Under Grant’s leadership, KUA’s governing board has actively partnered with the Association on its legislative and regulatory goals. He has advocated before state and federal regulatory agencies, state legislators and members of Congress, and is a frequent speaker at national conferences on topics such as electric utility law and municipal entry into the broadband industry. He is a previous winner of the Association’s Robert E. Roundtree Rising Star Award and is a past president of the Florida Municipal Electric Association.
Mike Willetts has actively collaborated for almost 25 years with the American Public Power Association in his role as director of safety and training for the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association. He has played a pivotal role in the development of the Association’s Safety Manual and is a frequent speaker at Association conferences and meetings. Mike has been involved with the Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo since its inception, and he played a critical role in the planning and execution of the 2016 rodeo, which took place in Minnesota. He has long been a member of the Association’s Engineering and Operations Section, serving as chair in 2000. Mike has also served on the Association’s Mutual Aid Working Group since 2013.
Robert E. Roundtree Rising Star Award
This award honors retired City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri, CEO Robert E. Roundtree for his more than 50 years of service to public power. This award was established in 2003 and includes a $2,000 scholarship to an employee of an Association member utility who has been in his/her current position for five or fewer years at the time of the nomination. The scholarship covers tuition and expenses for the winner to attend any Association-sponsored program.
Eligibility: Any employee of an Association member utility who has been employed for five or fewer years in his/her current position is eligible.
Criteria: Nominees should: be recognized by peers as future leaders of public power utilities; have demonstrated a dedication to the goals and principles of public power; be problem solvers, known for creativity, job knowledge, and leadership; be professionals who perform all job responsibilities in an outstanding manner, achieving high quality results; and have demonstrated interest in improving management and operational skills through continuing education.
Kyle Roadman joined Emerald People’s Utility District in Eugene, Oregon, in 2010 as an analyst to help the utility enter into a new power sales agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration. With no background in electric power issues, Kyle proved to be a quick study, successfully growing into the position of power resources manager where he works to improve utility operations in the areas of cost efficiency, advanced technology, and environmental stewardship. He encouraged EPUD to get involved in the American Public Power Association’s Demonstrating Energy and Efficiency Developments R&D program, and developed an internal “Green Grant” program for the utility.
Public Service Award
This award, initiated in 1978, was established to recognize exceptional leadership by public officials at the national or state level.
Eligibility: Any publicly elected or appointed official at the national or state level whose activities have advanced the objectives of public power is eligible.
Criteria: Nominees should have: made substantial contributions to public power nationally; received national recognition for their activities; and made contributions with lasting impact.
Spence Vanderlinden Public Official Award
This award was initiated in 1984 to recognize personal service to the American Public Power Association by elected and appointed officials. It honors Spence Vanderlinden of Harlan, Iowa, first chair of the American Public Power Association Policy Makers Council.
Eligibility: Any elected or appointed member of an Association member utility policy board or commission, or a public power community mayor who has actively participated in the Association for at least five years is eligible.
Criteria: Nominees should have made substantial contributions: toward Association goals; toward enhancing the Association's national prestige; and to their communities.
Stan Akers has been a pillar of the Peru, Indiana, community for more than 40 years—serving as a board member for Peru Utilities for nearly 20 years, including 10 as chairman. He is a firm believer in public power as a practical and reliable community resource, and over the years he has embraced public power’s local service ideals. Stan has spent time as a volunteer for court-appointed special advocates, dedicating himself to helping at-risk youth in the community. He has also pitched in with local YMCA youth programs—specifically helping youth prepare for the Special Olympics. As a musician and painter, he teaches and entertains children and adults alike.
Thomas Kuntz spent 31 years with Owatonna Public Utilities in Minnesota before retiring in 2003. That same year, he was elected mayor of Owatonna. Having already been an active participant in American Public Power Association events, Tom redoubled his efforts from the perspective of a local policymaker. He joined the Association’s Policymakers Council in 2006 and served as chair in 2015 and an ex officio member of the Association’s board of directors. He also served on the board of directors for PowerPAC—the Association’s political action committee. Regionally, Tom is active with the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, serving on its board from 1997 to 1999 and as its president from 1999 to 2001.
Charles D. Lamb served on the Edmond, Oklahoma, City Council for 15 years before being appointed mayor in 2011. He is a longtime supporter of public power and has actively engaged legislators at the state and federal level on critical issues. He has been on the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority board for 23 years—serving as chairman for the past 16—and he is the first elected official to receive the Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma Ray Duffy Personal Service Award for outstanding service to public power. A long-time community volunteer, he has served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Edmond Urban Forestry Commission. In 2006, he was named to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame for City and Town Officials.
Mark Crisson Leadership and Managerial Excellence Award
Recognizes managers at any level of an Association member utility, joint action agency, or state or regional association who bring their organizations to new levels of excellence, lead by example, and inspire their employees and staff to improve processes, services, and operations.
Eligibility: A manager at any level of an Association member utility, joint action agency, or state or regional association who has actively participated in the Association for at least five years.
Criteria: Nominees should: (1) have demonstrated the capacity to empower and inspire employees to achieve common goals; (2) be recognized as an innovative leader who guides employees and organizations to demonstrated success; and (3) raise the performance of the employees and organizations to a higher standard.
Paul Beckhusen has been director of the Coldwater Board of Public Utilities in Michigan since 2003. In that time, he has developed a reputation as a respected leader who inspires his employees to elevate their performance. He challenges his team to seek innovative solutions to problems while providing guidance and strategic vision. Paul successfully aligned the Branch County Economic Growth Alliance with city departments including the electric utility—positioning the alliance for success in the community. He has served on the boards of the Michigan Municipal Electric Association, American Municipal Power, and the American Public Power Association.
Ivan Henderson has led Cleveland Public Power in Ohio since 2006. His colleagues describe his leadership style as innovative and creative, and he urges his employees to use every tool in their toolbox to serve customers. As a result, the utility has rolled out programs to improve customer service and raise awareness of public power, including a revitalized net-metering and street-lighting programs and an expanded Public Power Week open house. The utility has also launched workforce initiatives to attract local talent. Regionally, Ivan is active with American Municipal Power—serving on the board since 2006. A long-time supporter of the American Public Power Association, he played a critical role in hosting the 2012 Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo.
Alan Richardson Statesmanship Award
This award is named for Alan H. Richardson, who served the Association for 30 years—12 as president & CEO—and retired at the end of 2007. It recognizes public power leaders who work successfully and tirelessly on the American Public Pwoer Association's behalf forging consensus on national issues that achieve public power’s goals.
Any public power official who has actively participated in the Association for at least five years is eligible.
Nominees should have demonstrated leadership and played a major role over time in developing consensus toward public power’s national policy goals on legislative or regulatory issues; be widely recognized by their peers for strengthening the Association’s national identity and credibility; and have made substantial contributions to the policy process on behalf of public power and the Associaton.
For the past 13 years, Mike Vinson has served as the executive director of the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association. In this role, he has skillfully united and advanced the state’s 60 public power utilities. These utilities vary in size and customer base—serving both rural and urban communities, and Mike has made sure that each has a voice when it comes to guiding TMEPA. This consensus-building has paid off by unifying the state’s advocacy efforts before the state legislature and other policymakers. All the while, the association has continued to grow. Outside of Tennessee, Mike has been active with the American Public Power Association’s efforts on pole attachments. He has also been a supporter and advocate for PowerPAC, the Association’s political action committee.