John Baldridge / Senior Director of Pipeline Operations
One-of-a-kind. Tough. Alaskan. A proud legacy. Standing the test of time.
They don't make pipelines like TAPS anymore. And they don't make pipeline people like John Baldridge anymore, either.
As Baldridge approaches his 40th anniversary with Alyeska, he's reflecting on his time here. And there's a lot to reflect on. When it comes to TAPS operations and milestones, he's just about seen and done it all.
He was a teenaged technician in Valdez at pipeline startup. A month later, he helped load the ARCO Juneau with the inaugural shipment of TAPS oil.
He was among the initial responders to the Exxon Valdez oil spill at Bligh Reef and then was part of the team that created SERVS.
He literally wrote the book on the pipeline's 30-year right of way Grant and Lease renewal. He's served in some of the most pivotal and high-pressured positions on TAPS.
He's recognized as one of Alyeska's most respected and knowledgeable leaders. And he's currently the Senior Director of Pipeline Operations, a position he's held for more than 11 years, longer than any of his predecessors. Overseeing the pipeline is a role that fits him and his history.
"I have a certain amount of pride in my career and doing it against the odds," Baldridge said. "But it's been more than that. This is the greatest pipeline system that has ever existed. It's been a privilege for me to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, a part of running the Trans Alaska Pipeline System and everything that stands for."
For his longevity, leadership and track record of excellent work, capably filling many positions and always displaying TAPS pride, Baldridge was recently recognized with a 2016 Atigun Award for Lifetime Achievement, among Alyeska's highest organizational honors.
"John bleeds Alyeska red," said Scott Hicks, Senior Director of Valdez Operations, referring to when Alyeska's vehicles were red.
Hicks, whose work connection with Baldridge dates back 30 years, added: "Here's a person who started as an entry level technician and is now senior director of an 800-mile pipeline. That's a pretty significant achievement and I can't think of anyone more deserving of this honor."
Right time, right place, right person for the job
Baldridge's resume is around 10 titles long and spans from technician to first line supervisor to Terminal Manager, Compliance Advisor to Business Unit Advisor to Pipeline Advisor, and more. He's worked alone on complicated projects, led large system-wide teams, traveled every mile of TAPS many times over and spent shifts in Prince William Sound. One aspect of his work history has remained consistent, however.
"I never had a desire to work for anyone else and never applied for a job outside of Alyeska," he said. "But I couldn't imagine myself doing just one job for decades. So probably the keys to my longevity are moving around in the company and taking advantage of opportunities. And I've had a lot of great opportunities."
Most of those opportunities were byproducts of Baldridge's tireless work ethic, toughness and eagerness to tackle challenges, solve problems and continually learn and grow.
Baldridge was born in Homer and grew up in a large family on the Kenai Peninsula. His father was a heavy equipment operator during TAPS construction in the Valdez area, where John's brother also worked. As a youth, Baldridge spent summers processing fish for his uncle in Kasilof. His experiences of getting familiar with boats, operating a forklift, building strength and gaining perspective on working life eventually became invaluable.
When he arrived in Valdez at 17 looking for a job with Alaska's historic new pipeline, he said he was thinking of a long-term career while others were just trying to ride the construction boom to big bucks. Renowned BP tanker Captain Bill Fisken interviewed Baldridge one-on-one for a berth crewman technician job and saw something familiar and promising in the young man.
"Bill knew how old I was and he said, 'Don't worry about that. I first went to sea when I was 14,'" Baldridge recalled. "In February 1977, I got the call. I was a technician in the first group hired for the Marine Department. We spent February through August getting ready for startup."
The training evolved into system-essential work like commissioning berths and response skimmers, practicing loading 800-foot tankers with seawater and installing oil spill containment boom. As a relative youngster working alongside seasoned mariners, Baldridge said his education was endless.
"They were tough guys to work for and they would beat a lot of work ethic into you," said Baldridge, smiling. "One time, I got my butt chewed for having my hands in my pockets. I was watching someone demonstrate something and my supervisor, another BP tanker captain, tells me, 'Get your hands out of your pockets! You're supposed to have your hands ready to work at all times!' I was flexible, malleable to that. The older guys didn't last long. They wouldn't put up with it."
By the time the ARCO Juneau showed up for the first load of cargo in August, his training was complete and the TAPS dream was finally reality.
"We filled up that tanker and there was a big celebration; Valdez was going nuts," Baldridge said. "It was tough work, but it was great work. There were seals and otters in the water and eagles flying around. The weather conditions could be pretty miserable out there, but I look back at it with fondness."
Safety, solutions and success
Early on, the admitted "introvert" was "happy being a tech" and reluctantly accepted step-up and fill-in management slots. His progression into a leader came from his work history and increased responsibilities during drills and crisis situations. He also drew inspiration from managers he admired and trainings with The Levinson Institute.
Baldridge eventually moved into advisor, lead and manager positions over two decades in Valdez, then into Right of Way Renewal and Pipeline Operations in Fairbanks. Hicks said Baldridge was known then for being "even-keeled and calm, even in the face of challenge or adversity."
"I've enjoyed all my jobs but especially the advisor roles where they'd say, 'Here's a gnarly mess; see what you can do with it,'" Baldridge said. "I like problem-solving and I like fixing something once instead of just making the problem go away and then fixing it three or 10 more times."
Hicks has seen Baldridge in action many times.
"He's one of the most organized people I have ever been around and he's always been a fanatic for details," said Hicks. "He's so thorough and knowledgeable. He makes sure you've got everything you need to do the job."
In every job, Baldridge said he always kept safety at the forefront. Contingency Planning Preparedness Coordinator Shana Clay worked as Baldridge's administrative assistant for nearly 10 years in Fairbanks. Clay saw the direct impact that Baldridge had in transforming safety on TAPS from a concept to a culture.
"Slowly, over time, we started to really get it: how to work more safely, and he'd keep raising that bar," said Clay. "John would say in every weekly staff meeting, 'We can have zero recordables. It is achievable.' When he said it, he meant it, and people believed it. And then it happened.
"His goal every day is that the pump stations are safe, the pipeline is safe and the people are safe," Clay added.
Baldridge shook his head when he recalled that there were no written procedures for Terminal operations during the early years, just operations manuals that had to be memorized. Today, he's gratified by how far TAPS workers and organizations have come in their commitment to safety.
"When people ask me what I do, I tell them 'I manage safety,'" he said. "If you do safety well, everything else will follow – discipline, being more systematic, attention to detail, housekeeping and even financial success. ... The worst thing that can happen to you as a supervisor or manager is for an employee working in your area to get seriously injured."
'A good day on the pipeline'
When the longtime pipeliner was promoted to Senior Director of Pipeline Operations, Baldridge said it was among the most special moments of his life. That sentiment was shared by many.
"I have a high level of rapport with field personnel and some of those people told me, 'It's a good day on TAPS when a former tech becomes director of the pipeline,'" Baldridge said. "I took a lot of pride from that and motivation not to screw up this unique opportunity."
He's lived up to that responsibility.
"The way the pipeline operates today, our successes in operations and safety, has a lot to do with him staying in that job for so long," Clay said. "He's an anchor, the cornerstone and a real forward-thinker. ... And I think people also really respect him because he's walked in those steel-toed boots and turned those wrenches."
Baldridge said TAPS is in great hands moving forward – the workforce at Alyeska and on TAPS is as strong as he's ever been around. He points specifically to the diverse group of O&Ms and Area Managers he's assembled.
"I was sure to put together a good team, because I know my limitations," he said. "And it's the most solid group of pipeline leadership that has ever existed on TAPS."
Baldridge has seen plenty of changes on TAPS, from miniscule to monumental. But he says the most important change makes the organization successful today and continues propelling it forward.
"The biggest change I've seen in my time at Alyeska is that the silos and boundaries have been knocked down," he said. "In the '80s, it was, 'We do our thing, they do their thing.' VMT and Pipeline were like two separate companies. Now when issues arise, we tend to do things similarly from Pump Station 1 through Valdez."
After 40 years of seeing and doing it all on TAPS, Baldridge said he remains excited about what the future holds for the pipeline he loves.
"Not many people get the opportunity to work for one organization for 40 years – it's pretty neat," he said. "And I tell new employees during orientation that there are still at least 8 billion barrels of oil on the North Slope. There's no reason they can't have a long career on TAPS, too."
Vinnie Szymkowiak / Senior Civil Engineer
Life is good for Vinnie Szymkowiak.
He's an engineer who channels his passions for math and science to solve unique and difficult challenges. He works at Alyeska, a place he calls "an engineer's dream," and has coworkers who are "so great at what they do." He lives in Alaska, a wonderland for him and his active family. And now he's the first TAPS worker to be named an Atigun Award Engineer of the Year.
"I really enjoy working at Alyeska, where the standards are so high and our work benefits the state and its people," said Szymkowiak, who will celebrate nine years at Alyeska in July. "There's 40 years of engineering excellence here and we get to continue that. We apply the absolute truths of physics to real problems and collaborate to fix those problems. That’s pretty fun for engineers."
As a high school student, he "liked seeing how physics and math applied to the real world." Now as a Senior Civil Engineer and Interim O&M Design Engineering Supervisor, Szymkowiak knows firsthand how "engineers have an opportunity to improve society and our work can make life better for people."
That was true when he was providing wastewater solutions in rural Alaska at a previous job and it's true today with his role on TAPS.
His colleagues are certainly happy to have him here. Szymkowiak is known for his enthusiastic project support, work order development and jumping in wherever he's needed. He's also recognized for his seismic stewardship, which became an interest for him while he worked as a Valdez Facilities Engineer.
David Heimke, Alyeska Engineering Standards and Programs Manager, wrote of Szymkowiak, "When pressed with the issue of how to make the company compliance with seismic easier, Vinnie built up an educational program and went out amongst many departments to share that information."
A recent example of Szymkowiak's talent and tireless work came last spring when he stepped up to be part of the repair and investigation teams responding to the Pump Station 10 isolation fitting that began weeping. Szymkowiak and others immediately sprang into innovative action, eventually crafting a never-before-on-TAPS solution -- a reinforced sleeve that enclosed the fitting while also being sensitive to the high seismic activity in the Denali Fault area.
"It was a very urgent issue, so a bunch of people from different disciplines got into a conference room and worked the issue until the solution rose to the top," Szymkowiak said. "We have such sharp people here and you definitely avoid group think because people are willing to speak up if they have different ideas."
He added, "That's what's great about working here. There are so many intellectual challenges and really smart people who care about their jobs, who are good leaders and teammates, and who have a vision for TAPS."
As for Szymkowiak, he deflects any special attention about receiving an Atigun Award. He instead credits his surroundings and circumstances.
"I was surprised to receive the award -- some ideas get passed to me from leadership and I just implement them," he said with a laugh. "I truly feel like this is a shared award. No individuals can succeed without a team that is successful and a company that is successful. And I have the pleasure of working with a strong team at Alyeska."
Eliza Tiulana / OCC Training & Mgmt. of Change Lead Controller
There are 189 documents and countless ever-shifting regulations and compliance requirements that guide the complicated and critical work of the 23 qualified controllers at Alyeska's Operations Control Center (OCC).
There is just one Eliza Tiulana.
As Alyeska's longtime OCC Training and Management of Change (MOC) Lead Controller, Tiulana is ravenous in her research, dedicated to her documentation, precise in her preparation, thorough in her training and methodical in her management.
For her attention to detail, hunger to learn and passion to lead others, Tiulana is being recognized as a 2016 Atigun Award Professional of the Year.
"I take my work very seriously, take pride in my job and in passing on information," explained Tiulana. "A controller's work is always changing, so I make sure that when they come in to work they are trained on any changes. That's what success looks like at the OCC."
If it sounds like Tiulana has a lot to keep track of, you're right. Not only does she stay on top of a seemingly endless whirlwind of documents, procedures, regulations, trainings, tasks and occasional shifts filling in as a controller, she somehow makes it look easy. Melanie Myles, Director of Oil Movements, wrote of Tiulana, "Managing to perform at this level for any given year is commendable. Being able to do it exceedingly year after year is extraordinary and noteworthy."
Tiulana's secret? "I'm lucky that I'm good at multitasking. ... It also takes a lot of initiative, a lot of research, asking a lot of questions and figuring out how to get things done."
Tiulana will reach 16 years at Alyeska in July, all spent in Oil Movements; first as a controller in Valdez, then in roles at the OCC in Anchorage. Before Alyeska, she worked at ARCO on the North Slope for nearly 12 years. Always ambitious, Tiulana was an accounting specialist before permanently moving into operations, where she was drawn to the complexities and responsibilities of the work.
"I want to feel like I am adding value and doing something that I feel is important," she said. "To be busy all the time and making decisions, I guess that it makes me feel more alive to be in the mix of things in a fast-paced environment."
Tiulana has found all she craves professionally at the OCC, especially in her role as a trainer and completing MOC packages.
"I always felt that teaching others was very rewarding," she said. "It has allowed me to be involved in a lot of activities and keeps me really busy. I'm always looking for gaps in our work and in my mind I'm thinking, 'What if?' As a team, we succeed by eliminating incidents."
While Tiulana enjoys training others, she is thankful for two former coworkers she considers mentors and inspirations: Meredith Buchman, her first supervisor at Alyeska; and Nancy Lei, a coworker who became her supervisor. Both are retired, though Buchman occasionally works as an OCC training consultant.
"Meredith always had the highest standards and always pushed me to do a better job," Tiulana said. "Nancy and I came up through the ranks together, collaborated on projects and taught each other a lot. We essentially developed the position that I'm in now. And when she became my supervisor, she allowed me the opportunities to continue to grow."
All of her past growth and unlimited potential to learn and share more in the future have led to special recognition: an Atigun Professional of the Year honor.
"I don't get wowed very often," Tiulana said, "but this makes me feel like, 'Wow!'"
Jim Lawlor / Environmental Coordinator Supervisor
There are numerous reasons why Jim Lawlor recently reached 27 years of working at Alyeska – the past 24 in the Environment Department. But he can boil it down to one: he has his dream job.
"The best northern lights display I've ever seen was when I was training a technician at the Pump Station 5 sewage lagoon at 4 in the morning," said Lawlor, currently an Environmental Coordinator Supervisor. "Even when you're handling wastewater, it can be a great day on the job here.
"I don't know of many things more exciting than being out in this environment and working to protect it," he added. "Sometimes you think, 'I can't believe I'm being paid to do this.'"
The feeling is mutual. Alyeska and TAPS coworkers say they are fortunate to have Lawlor, his longevity, talent and positive attitude around. He was recently named a 2016 Atigun Award Professional of the Year, powered by nominations from the entire Alyeska Right-of-Way department of 24 and Kim Kortenhof, a Contingency Response Planner in Fairbanks and a 2015 Atigun Award Professional of the Year.
"There are many inspirational people working on TAPS," Kortenhof wrote, "and Jim is the person whose professionalism and consideration of others has been the most inspirational for me."
Others nominators noted, "Jim provides the advice and encouragement for us to do our jobs with environmental soundness" and "Jim gives the history behind the decisions made, which lends weight and more firmly cements the requirements in our minds, making us more likely to remember and adhere to the process when the time comes out in the field."
Another nominator said "Jim can be out walking down each and every fish stream in an asset area, making repairs to the streams as he goes, and reporting back any larger repairs needed, and during the same visit he is handling hazardous waste issues on station, responding to a spill at another location, all while supervising a team of environmental coordinators."
Sure, Lawlor thoroughly enjoys his job, but he adds that he takes as much pride is his work and in TAPS as he does pleasure.
"It's great to work for a company that from leadership down has such a focus on flawless operations and a strong culture of safety and environmental awareness," he said. "Our environmental coordinators are well-integrated across TAPS and we share a lot of responsibilities. People come to us all the time with questions and asking, 'Are we doing it right?' That's great for us and great for TAPS."
About his dream job, Lawlor says he loves that he uses science in his daily work, even when it involves wastewater and hazardous materials. He's inspired by being surrounded by smart coworkers, contractors and regulators. He enjoys being busy, training others and being a team supervisor, an environmental coordinator and the Incident Management System’s Environmental Unit Leader for Prince William Sound.
Lawlor's been around for some of TAPS biggest triumphs and significant incidents. He's also updated countless environmental manuals, played roles in hundreds of exercises, shutdowns and new hire trainings, and overseen line-wide audits with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Despite all the responsibilities, he feels energized by the people and the variety that comes with working along all 800 miles of TAPS and beyond, from the North Slope to Prince William Sound to the OCC.
"I work with everyone from the guy with the shovel to a pump station manager to contractors and regulators of all sorts," he said. "And I really appreciate all of those relationships and the trust they have in me."
Ezequiel “Zeke” Cervantes / Mechanic and operations technician
Ezequiel “Zeke” Cervantes is a mechanic and operations technician for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company at Pump Station 1 in Prudhoe Bay. Zeke loves his work, but because of PS1’s remote location, very few people know exactly what he does and what it’s like to work on the North Slope. Zeke recently shared stories and photos about his work as the guest host of Alyeska’s social media sites. Click here to Zeke’s first Facebook entry and then travel through the timeline to see more of his stories and images.
Lori Day / Technical Development Coordinator
Lori Day, a Technical Development Coordinator based out of Valdez, recently celebrated her 20th year with Alyeska.
"Twenty years -- the time has really flown by," said Day. "But it's never felt like work. It's a part of my life."
Lori has spent her career in Valdez, a place she loves surrounded by people she loves and doing work she loves. She helps train TAPS technicians, from educating new techs just coming onboard to helping experienced techs learn new equipment and advance in the next steps of their careers.
"Having well-trained people is very critical in this line of work," Day said.
Well-trained technicians and leaders like Day are also essential for the operations and sustainability of TAPS and the learning, improving and innovating for so many of Alyeska's frontline workforce.
In her 20 years, Lori has visited every pump station, trained more than 100 new technicians, and provided additional training for hundreds of other technicians along TAPS.
"These technicians come from diverse backgrounds – some straight out of college, some with different experience elsewhere – but they are all proud and excited about their jobs and working for Alyeska," Day said. "And I'm also just so proud to work for this company."
Jerry DeHaas / Senior Discipline Engineering Advisor
The work of a mechanical engineer is complex, but Jerry DeHaas said that success comes in simplifying even the most complicated challenges.
"I just try to make my job, and everyone else's job, as easy as possible,” DeHaas said. “You don’t want to get to the solution before you get to the problem and understand the process. It's easy to try to jump to the solution, especially as you get older and have some experience. But it's always best to stand back at ground level and do some problem analysis. If you do that and do it right, things should turn out fairly well."
Recognized for his organization, teamwork and exceptional-yet-easygoing approach to work of all difficulty levels, DeHaas was named a recipient of a 2015 Atigun Award for Professional of the Year.
A Senior Discipline Engineering Advisor based out of Fairbanks, DeHaas laughs when he describes himself as "just a mechanical engineer working from one end of the pipeline to the other." In actuality, he's a 15-year Alyeska veteran who spends most of his time maintaining and replacing some of TAPS's most intricate and essential equipment. A specific focus of his work are the Siemens turbine power generator and pump packages at Pump Stations 3 and 4, which he helped install from 2007 to 2009.
"I've done piping vibration work, pump compression work and facing various technical challenges that are all part of engineering," DeHaas said. "The Siemens part of it has been the most involved and challenging. But we're all different. Some people like working on washing machines. I like working on turbines."
So much so, DeHaas has streamlined the demanding turbine change-out process along TAPS so that it's amazingly orchestrated and efficient, which was noted by the six TAPS employees who separately nominated him for an Atigun Teamwork Award.
"A turbine change-out is fairly intense, there are a few people involved, TAPS is somewhat vulnerable at that time, and you try to get the work done as quickly as you can," DeHaas said. "I watch to see where we can make improvements and I talk to everybody. Because of that, we have been able to continually upgrade our change-out kits with tools and aids so we are fully prepared and ready to go. From the first turbine to the present day, we do a change-out in a third of the time or less. It's a really big improvement and we're all satisfied with the results."
That's because even when faced with the most difficult work, DeHaas falls back on his mantra of keeping things simple.
"The most basic and best thing you can do is always remember to start out with a problem statement," he said. "Define the problem you're dealing with, then deal with it in a logical way. You have to go through a process to try and come to some kind of conclusion and solution to the problem."
DeHaas said that constant problem solving on the job keeps him professionally stimulated and satisfied, but adds that it's TAPS and the fellowship among the people he works with along the line that make his career special. He said that many TAPS people reached out to him when he had a health issue a few years ago. He also said he feels most comfortable when he's out in the field.
"There's something a little deeper than a normal work environment on TAPS," DeHaas said. "I've driven the line I don't know how many times from one end to the other, and I still don't get tired of it. And I get to work with so many different people, technicians and engineers, and I've enjoyed all of that. There is a certain amount of respect, camaraderie and wishing the best for your fellow person here that repeatedly shows up."
Kim Kortenhof / Senior Pipeline Compliance Coordinator
If you ask Kim Kortenhof what qualities help her thrive as a Senior Pipeline Compliance Coordinator, she immediately points to the qualities of others.
"If I'm successful, it's because I've had some really good role models and opportunities to see how other people manage their work," Kortenhof said. "It's fascinating to watch the interactions they have and the strategic and tactical ways they approach their work. I have had great teachers and managers. And it's funny, but when faced with difficult decisions, I sometimes ask myself what they would do in the same situation."
By observing and emulating great leaders, Kortenhof has become one herself. For that, she earned a 2015 Atigun Award for Professional of the Year. The Professional of the Year Awards are selected by Alyeska President Thomas Barrett.
A unique career path has allowed Kortenhof to work in many positions and with numerous TAPS staff and programs, all while gaining a wide-ranging perspective on the business of TAPS. Based in Fairbanks, she began working with Alyeska in 2001 as a contracted technical writer, a position she held for more than five years. Since then, she joked, "My job description changes every year." She became an Alyeska direct hire in 2010.
"The advantage of being a technical writer here was that I worked in a lot of areas and it gave me a good, broad introduction early on," Kortenhof said. "It helped me understand who does what in this company. So now when I need to figure out who to talk to about a job, my work is so much easier."
Kortenhof's current daily work also varies. As part of Alyeska's newly formed Contingency Response Planning Department, she oversees the Pipeline Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan. The job requires coordination and integration with many departments along TAPS.
"It's a challenge, but what keeps it interesting is that this job is not just process and what you know, but it's also a balance of preparedness and response," she said. "I like process, how to put things together, how to make things better. We are always trying to push what we can automate. And I like it when your work forces you to innovate."
Kortenhof said she is equally inspired by TAPS leaders, as well as staff working on TAPS and in Alyeska's offices across the state.
"The cool thing about working here is that you're working with experts who are the best in the world at what they do," she said. "People can talk a good story, but when they do good work they're not just talking the talk, they're getting the work done professionally and accurately."
That approach to exceptional work falls into the essential leadership qualities that Kortenhof said she has adopted from others.
"It's the idea of always being professional, treating people with respect, staying calm even when a lot of things are going on around you, and just rolling with the punches and getting things done," Kortenhof said. "It helps to be highly organized, too. We are always preparing for emergencies while still doing our regular jobs."
Kortenhof said that working at Alyeska and on TAPS is also special, and that’s what keeps her here, constantly growing, learning and leading.
"I do feel ownership in this company and in the pipeline, and I think everybody here feels ownership in it," she said. "If something isn't working, you take it personally. You also feel a responsibility to look out for others and pass along lessons. I don't think anyone goes into this work and thinks it's just business. It’s a lifestyle."
Julia Redington / Area Project Manager
The word integrity carries many powerful meanings around TAPS. Reliability. Flawless operations. Excellence. Risk management. Honesty. Teamwork.
Those who work with Alyeska Area Project Manager Julia Redington say that she demonstrates all of those qualities. For that, Redington received a 2015 Atigun Award for Integrity.
Redington has her own take on the meaning of integrity.
"I view integrity as being honest and respectful, trying to do the right thing, and empowering people to do the right thing," she said.
Redington said that approaching work with that kind of system view has helped her succeed in the ever-changing, always-challenging world of project management.
Since joining Alyeska's Projects team in 2001, Redington has been in the middle of some of the most unique, complex, high-profile and urgent projects on TAPS. Just a few months into her new job at Alyeska, Redington was part of the initial bridge assessment team following the magnitude 7.9 earthquake at Milepost 588 in 2002. She continued on as part of the project team that reset the Denali Fault back to the original design basis. She said that while the fault line experienced a lateral shift of more than 15 feet during the earthquake, TAPS performed as intended.
"The engineering of this pipeline is so impressive – they figured all of this out in the '60s and '70s!" Redington said. "I was impressed to see it work the way it was designed."
In 2012, Redington led what was the first of many successful mainline bypass projects at pump stations, something that hadn't been attempted since the 1990s. She is always busy, traveling TAPS, juggling projects and contributing to others' work. She was even nominated with multiple groups for different 2015 Atigun Awards.
"My favorite part of my work is the continuing challenges we face on TAPS and figuring out how to do things better," she said. "This job keeps you engaged. There's always such a variety of scopes within the projects we are doing."
Like integrity, variety is also a common theme in Redington’s career and her path to Alyeska. She grew up in Chugiak, a math lover whose father and uncle were both engineers. For college, she attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and earned a civil engineering degree. In something of a circular path, during college she interned with the Anchorage School District's projects team, then graduated and worked as a project manager at UAF.
As a UAF alum, Redington's role in improving the university's infrastructure held special meaning. But she was also looking for bigger projects and challenges. When her brother, Dan Flodin, a longtime Alyeska employee and current Supply Chain Management Director, told her about an opening in Alyeska's projects group in Fairbanks, she jumped at the chance. (Their brother, Ron Flodin, is an Alyeska construction manager at Pump Station 1.)
"He told me I should apply and I did," Redington said with a smile. "The pipeline always fascinated me; I was very interested in TAPS. When the opportunity came up, I wanted to see if I could become part of this team."
She landed the gig and was based out of Fairbanks for about five years, then transitioned to Alyeska’s Anchorage offices. Along the way, she earned her Professional Engineering license and developed a deep understanding of TAPS and love for her work.
"On TAPS, the work is always challenging and the people are amazing," she said. "Alyeska is just a fantastic place to work. Here, you have the ability to think outside the box or listen to others who are thinking outside the box. You have the chance to get a great team together, get support, and understand and solve the problem. It's rewarding when it all comes together."
Bill Frichtl / Electrical Engineer, retired
Reflecting on his Alyeska career, recent retiree Bill Frichtl said, "38 years is a long time, but it went quick." Time certainly flew for Frichtl, an electrical engineer who often found himself amid of some of the most significant projects, changes and milestones in TAPS history.
Frichtl was there during construction and countless upgrades. He was there during peak throughput and high-profile emergencies. He was there for fax machines and computers. And he stayed for nearly 40 years because of the people, the work, the company culture and TAPS.
"The pipeline was my life and I enjoyed it," Frichtl said, smiling. "Simply put, it's been good. I wish I could have lasted a few more years. I'd do it again."
For his legacy of extraordinary dedication, excellent work and sharing his institutional knowledge with generations of TAPS workers, Frichtl was presented a 2015 Alyeska Atigun Award for Lifetime Achievement. Frichtl retired from Alyeska and his Senior Discipline Engineering Advisor position in November 2014.
To say that Frichtl has seen it all on TAPS isn't exactly accurate, but he has undoubtedly seen and experienced more than most in the TAPS workforce. His eyes were opened wide upon his arrival in Alaska in February 1976. He was a young electrical engineer from the Midwest suddenly charged with helping oversee the simultaneous construction of new pump stations along the 800-mile corridor that would contain TAPS.
"I was certainly amazed coming from Illinois' flat country to seeing Alaska's majestic mountains and big skies," he said. "It was memorable."
So was the work. Frichtl was based out of Fairbanks, but rarely there. He juggled multiple projects and teams with basic equipment and tools, and archaic communication devices. He traveled the line constantly to check in on the worksites, which isn't as glamourous as it sounds. The roads were rough and narrow, and the helicopter and plane rides were, in his words, scary. He still gets chills talking about an emergency helicopter landing that came shortly after leaving Pump Station 4 and traveling over Atigun Pass on a foggy day.
Frichtl was excited to be part of building TAPS, a project of enormous magnitude and importance. He said he was always learning new things, especially from mechanical engineer Joe Willing, who he called Uncle Joe, and fellow engineer Paul Klueber, who was also helping build pump stations.
"It was all new to me – it was fun, but it was work," Frichtl said. "There was so much work to do, so many people and companies, so many shops. People were pretty much standing on top of each other working, especially when it came to startup. But being there early on and during startup was the best experience one could have."
Like everyone, Frichtl celebrated the end of construction. He also knew that his journey, like that of TAPS, was just beginning.
After startup, he relocated to Alyeska's Anchorage office, where he worked out of the Operations group. The team relentlessly sought system improvements and innovation. Work on TAPS "was never normal," Frichtl said, and he spent weeks in the field on massive mechanical and technological upgrades.
Hard work is in Frichtl’s blood. He grew up on a farm in Southeast Illinois, the seventh in a family of 10 children. As an adult, he was so committed to his work he rarely took vacations. When he did, he was notorious for coming into the office occasionally to check in on projects anyway.
"I didn't feel like I needed time away from my work, at least not early on," he said. "I got into the system very deeply, intimately. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities and work environment. And since I was involved with all the changes and upgrades, I wanted to be at the sites taking the extra steps to help people learn."
Among his favorite work moments, he said TAPS startup was momentous, and that two others stand out.
The startup of all of TAPS' 62 remote gate valves (RGVs) was a special highlight. "If anything, I have a soft spot for the RGVs – they are out of sight, out of mind, but they play a big role in the safe operations of the pipeline," he said. "They have to operational, and they need tender loving care."
And then there was the stretch in the late '80s when TAPS was transporting oil at unexpected highs and efficiency: "We were moving 2.1 million barrels a day for a month – now that was exciting," he said. "The orders from up high were, 'Don't shut down.' We used DRA (drag reducing agent) to pump beyond the mechanical horsepower. And I was involved in designing the DRA injection systems."
When asked the secret to his longevity, Frichtl quickly answered, "I never became a supervisor. I had a strong desire not to work as a supervisor. I know my limitations and it paid off. … The other thing that is a special case to my longevity is my willingness to work. I did not have a close supervisor; they let me do what I thought was best. That's what kept me going."
For almost 40 years, Frichtl kept going. His work helped build TAPS, then keep it running and evolving. He knows his fingerprints are all over the system, and he's proud that he's a part of history.
"Eight hundred miles of pipe and all those pump stations in two years? And we built it without any high-tech equipment. It's amazing," Frichtl said. "Something like that is never going to happen again."