Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Employee Spotlight: Cass Thomas


Cass Thomas, Gas Construction & 
Maintenance Planner Coordinator   

When employees have a question regarding gas, chances are Cass Thomas has the answer. He’s covered a lot of territory in the last 28 years.

Cass started working at MLGW on June 8, 1992, as a Gas Utility Worker. He was promoted to Gas

Machine Operator, Gas Crew Leader, Gas Inspector (WOC), Gas Safety Specialist (WOC), Gas Foreman, Gas General Foreman, Gas General Supervisor (WOC) and finally in 2012, Gas Construction and Maintenance Planner Coordinator in the Construction & Maintenance Gas Division.

The best part of his job:
The best part of my job has been learning the gas system from the construction and engineering point of view. The ability to be able to help the younger employees (engineering and construction) and to pass on some of my leadership skills and decision making abilities is always a true blessing. I get a chance to help our wonderful customers solve problems, concerns and any general questions they may have. I enjoy interacting with different employees at various levels of the Division and/or other external leaders from various industries. I spend a lot of time interacting with our customers (internal & external) and find joy in using my experience, education, and overall natural leadership skills to improve MLGW and our customers’ experiences.

How COVID has affected his work:
The pandemic has added challenges for this Gas Planner Coordinator. I have had to be creative in meeting employees and customers in the field/office for discussion and guiding points while social distancing. The pandemic created distance in our interaction with employees and customers; evidence of this is general office and preconstruction meetings, which are totally virtual now. Also, the Gas Division has added the Street Construction Dept. as part of its Division, which has increased my work load of answering customers’ complaints, concerns and general questions.
Whenever you take on additional responsibilities, you will incur stress. You must be willing and able to go the extra mile to satisfy the customer and maintain the positive image of MLGW.  I have enjoyed my tenure at MLGW and still look forward to helping the customers daily.
Something most of his coworkers don't know about him:
I began my career at MLGW in 1992 with only a high school education. I was able to work full time while going back to school at night to obtain four college degrees including a Bachelors in Business Administration -- Management in 2002 and an MBA in 2004. 
What we can find him doing on a Saturday afternoon:
On Saturday, you can find me walking/running in the park early morning, then fixing things around the house or watching college football.
And finally, his hidden/secret talents:
I think my hidden talent is natural leadership and being athletic. I have been a leader on every team I have ever played on since my early school days and I have spent most of my years at MLGW in leadership positions. I played sports all of my younger life (basketball, football etc.). I coached youth basketball and football for years to help mentor the youth while teaching them about sports and life lessons. I try to instill in the youth that it’s not where you come from, it’s where you want to go in life and how hard you are willing to work.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Employee Spotlight: Eric Conway


Eric Conway, Manager of Employee Services and Talent Acquisition
Have a COVID question? Chances are Eric Conway has the answer. We’ve all gotten to know his name over the last six months, and now we know just a little bit more!
He "first gained employment with MLGW on March 10, 2008, as a HR Generalist." He was promoted to HR Rep 2, HR Compliance Coordinator and finally the Manager of Employee Services and Talent Acquisition (ESTA) in 2018. 
The best part of his job:
It is always wonderful to work with a great team like the ESTA department. I enjoy working with my peers as they are a wonderful support system in the People Services Division. Additionally, I enjoy interacting with different employees at various levels of the Division and/or other external leaders from various industries. Making suggestions/decisions for the ultimate health and well-being of the Division is a wonderful and gratifying responsibility (guiding on policies, interpreting federal legislation, best practices and procedures).     
How COVID has affected his work:
The pandemic has added challenges for ESTA. I have had to be creative and institute guidance and amendments to policies that affects employees' lives and work. As our policies on how employees are managed from the office to remote working have evolved, it has been interesting and we have made it work for the best outcome. Human Resources is about interacting with people on a more intimate level.  The pandemic created distance in our interaction with employees; evident of this is our interview process, which is totally virtual now, is evidence of this.
Whenever you take on additional responsibilities that impact lives, you will incur stress. You must turn a negative into a positive. I sleep better at night because the work we do sustains quality of life and mitigates risk to all employees during this pandemic.
Something most of his coworkers don't know about him:
Probably that I’m a big softy when it comes to my kids.  Although they are grown, I still try to guide them as young adults, helping them to be productive citizens.
What we can find him doing on a Saturday afternoon:
Just relaxing from a morning ride, watching a movie or old television show. Also, I try to walk with my daughter for exercise and spend some quality time with her.
And finally, his hidden/secret talents:
I don’t have any hidden secrets or talents.  I have always been athletic and I enjoy activities that are health oriented. I am an avid cyclist for seven or eight years now. In the spring and summer, I ride three to four days a week from 30 -70 plus miles per ride. After the season, I continue to ride once or twice on the weekend during fall and winter for training for the next riding season. I also officiate Middle and High School Basketball games for Shelby County schools.  I enjoy being a part of a sport that I once played. This is also a healthy alternative for the fall and winter months when outdoor activities are limited.

Friday, October 9, 2020

New Resources for a "New Normal"

Many Mid-South students are taking virtual classes this fall. Trying to learn under "new normal" circumstances requires new and different resources. 

To ensure students at Craigmont Middle, MLGW's adopted school, have what they need for back-to-school success, Division volunteers distributed 600 pairs of ear buds to students. 

Taking Precautions

Students and parents could also pick up textbooks at the September 15, back-to-school event. Resources were handed out in a makeshift drive-thru to help limit contact as much as possible. MLGW volunteers also wore masks as a precaution against COVID-19. 

MLGW University's Genevieve Thomas, Human Performance department, coordinated the event with the help of Candice Lucas, also from the Human Performance department. 

A good set of ear buds or headphones is essential for students enrolled in distance learning. Ear buds help the student focus on his or her virtual class work and online lessons while blocking out noises at home. #MLGW #ServingYouIsWhatWeDo

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Employee Spotlight: Darren Sharp

We had an employee suggest a new feature, an employee spotlight, to help employees in different areas get to know each other. We thought it was a great idea, and asked the person who suggested the idea to be our first in the spotlight. Many of us know Darren Sharp as the man who runs the company Zoom events, but we didn't know that this Computer Software Specialist also coaches basketball at Houston Middle School. Keep reading to find out what else we learned…


Two things he loves about his job at Lead Computer Software Specialist:

“Receiving a “Thank You” from an End User when you’ve delivered a technology solution that improves the efficiency of their jobs. To me, that means you are developing the “right” solutions for your users.

Inspiring kids when I speak at Career Days about technology and life.  I include information about my background, my current responsibilities, education, training, and salary ranges of a Technology Professional. But I also focus on honesty, good manners, respect, time management, and Dreaming Big.”

How COVID has affected his daily work:

“As COVID has forced a large number of employees to work remotely, MLGW has adopted technology that allows us to stay connected.  One of those technologies is Zoom.  Zoom’s cloud platform allows employees to share videos, content and chat across telephone, mobile devices, and desktops systems.  My team is responsible for hosting several Corporate meetings and webinars via Zoom (i.e Information Systems Safety Meetings, MLGW Board of Commissioners Meeting, MLGW On-Track, Neighborhood Advisory Council, J.T. Young’s All Employee Meeting).  In addition, we provide Zoom training for internal customers (i.e. How to Schedule a Meeting, Zoom Tips for Host a Meeting).”

What we can find him doing on a Saturday afternoon:

“On Saturday afternoons, you can find me working on my F-150 with my son. This is my way of spending quality time with my son, teaching him life-skills and valuable lessons.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Virtual Energy Audits Helping MLGW Customers Cope


Sitting at his dining room table, MLGW HERS certified Energy Technician David Wright punched in the cell phone number of a homeowner who sought an energy audit.

After introductions Wright asked, “Do you have an iPhone?”

“I do,” replied Bartlett homeowner Darlene Metcalf.

“Is it possible that I can FaceTime you?”

“Sure can,” she said.

That was the start of a 20-minute virtual energy audit.

“We’re meeting people where they are,” explained Margie Borrum-Smith, manager of MLGW’s Energy Services. “It doesn’t matter what kind of phone they have.” Since mid-March, the department has conducted over 300 virtual energy audits with customers.

Once the technicians return to the office, Wright said they’ll be following up with the customers.

So far, the technicians have caught gas leaks, water leaks and loose duct work cooling the attic instead of the home.  “When you call the homeowners, you’re like a knight in shining armor,” Wright said.

Wright suggested that one homeowner check his upstairs water heater and the drain pan attached to a PVC pipe leading outside his home. He said, ‘I’ve got a pond out here.’ His water heater was leaking,” Wright said. “A lot of times, it will be simple stuff causing major problems like a dirty air filter or water constantly running from a toilet.”

Sherry Bougard knew something was wrong because her utility bills were too high for a vacant home she was renovating for her non-profit group, Be Tru Awareness Outreach, which helps victims of domestic violence.

She drove over to the house to check on the contractor’s work. Bougard felt fine when she arrived, but she started getting lightheaded and sick after being inside the house for 15 minutes.

She had already made arrangements for a virtual energy audit that day. The technician asked, “Do you think it’s a gas leak? Go outside and let me see your gas meter. Now put the cell phone camera close to the meter.”

The flow indicator valve on the gas meter was spinning. The technician told her: “You have a gas leak. Stay out of the house.”

The HERS certified energy technician called the MLGW emergency line immediately, and a MLGW customer service technician found a leak in the gas burning fireplace. He turned off the gas, and Bougard hired a plumber to cap it off. “It ended up being a great success,” she said. “It could have been much more detrimental.”

 “As more MLGW customers seek the safety of a virtual home audit,” Borrum-Smith said, “technicians will be able to engage more customers in understanding energy consumption on their utility bills.”

Regarding Metcalf who Wright FaceTimed, Wright recommended adding blinds or thermal drapes to her windows to make her home more energy efficient. Already, she had changed her air filters, fixed a leaky toilet and had her HVAC inspected annually. “She was doing everything right,” he said.

If a homeowner or renter wants a virtual energy audit, call (901) 528-4188 or go online to mlgw.com/energydr.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Green Power Switch is now Green Switch

Earlier this month, MLGW implemented changes to TVA's 20-year-old Green Power Switch program, which enables interested customers to pay extra--above their normal electric charges--on their MLGW bill to support renewable energy generation. For each "block" purchased, participants are able to claim an equivalent portion of their electricity use comes from renewable sources. Approximately 1,100 MLGW customers participate, mainly residential.
A.  Program name changed to Green Switch.
B.  Price per block decreased from $4 to $2.
C.  Amount of renewable energy per block increased from 150 kWh to 200 kWh.
D.  There is no longer a minimum number of "blocks" for non-residential customer participation.
All existing customers were rolled into the new program automatically, at their current number of blocks.  These customers have received communications from TVA about the changes, which will appear on their June revenue month bills.

To learn more, or sign up, click here.

Friday, June 12, 2020

James Debose is MLGW's IS Volunteer of the Year

James Debose, Data Security, has been selected as MLGW's Information Services Volunteer of the Year for 2019! DeBose reported the most hours working with youth in the community. He served after hours and on the weekends providing a safe alternative for play and learning.

DeBose’s manager, Douglas Duncan, Data Security, said about his employee, "He is the most positive, do-anything-for-you person I have ever known. Whether it’s at work or outside of work, his attitude is always, if I can do it, I’ll do it."

DeBose started working at MLGW in February 1988 in the Computer Room. He said his time at the Division has been a "humbling experience" and "a joy."

He started volunteering at the Division through company organized initiatives, specifically through MLGW University by going to local inter-city high schools speaking to the students. He encouraged them to be successful in life by being positive and kind to their fellow man. He also provided examples of familiar life success stories to them.

DeBose also volunteered with United Way, coaching kids in sports and working with his wife Angela DeBose, Customer Care Residential Center, on her annual ‘Hoodies for Homeless’ campaign during the Christmas Holidays.

One of DeBose’s primary volunteer efforts outside of MLGW includes working with children in sports. He began after a group of kids in his old neighborhood asked him to coach them in a recreational basketball league 10 years ago.

"I couldn’t say no them, because of my passion for kids and my love for sports. I had to study basketball and coaching, so that I could guide them on how to be successful in what they wanted to do," he said.

As a coach, he shared his life experiences with the kids, provided transportation to those who did not have it, found gyms for practices, and took the team to games. When he’s not coaching or mentoring, DeBose volunteers at Saint Francis of Assisi and Bartlett Recreation Center.

DeBose encourages others to volunteer and said that the work is fulfilling because he knows he is helping others and making a positive difference in people’s lives.

"Our community needs inspiration, hope, people to encourage one another, respect each other and for us to love our neighbors. Volunteering gives us all those rewards and more," he said. "It uplifts me and for me to see the gleam in the kids’ eyes brings satisfaction to my heart. I encourage volunteerism for your own self-gratification."

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