Lifetime Achievement: Joel Lindsey
When Joel Lindsey recently accepted the 2023 Lifetime Achievement President’s Choice Award in front of his pipeline coworkers and peers in Fairbanks, it wasn’t a moment that Joel used to absorb the spotlight. Instead, it became a true reflection of his consistent leadership on TAPS and commitment to build up those around him. Surrounded by several longtime coworkers and friends in the DIF Warehouse lunchtime celebration, Joel talked about many memories he gained over the years with those that were significant in his career.
“I’ve been telling people it’s their fault for my award – they all helped me get there,” said Joel. “But it’s an honor to be picked out of a workforce for this. It’s not anything I ever thought would have happened to me.”
Joel reminisced that when the pipeline first started up, he and others were told to expect it to only run a relatively short while.
“Well, we’re still here,” said Joel to a cheer. “TAPS workers owe it to the future generations to keep it operating.”
Joel and his wife, Iris, started their journey to Alaska soon after marrying in 1968. They traveled from Savannah, Georgia, with their two Volkswagens to Fairbanks to settle down in the tight-knit community of, at the time, 18,000 residents.
Before Joel started his 44-year career on TAPS, he spent some time working maintenance at Fairview Manor and jumped on an opportunity to work with a satellite tracking firm before joining the UAF Geophysical Institute to work at the Poker Flat Research Range. His start on TAPS began in 1978 as a technician at Pump Station 5.
“Working at Alyeska has been the best job I’ve ever had,” said Lindsey. “I quit looking for other opportunities after I got here. Anyone who works here can go in any direction they want to – they just have to try.”
Over the years, Joel took on more than a dozen positions between Pump Stations 7 and 8, ranging from Operations Maintenance Supervisor, Pipeline Maintenance Manager and Construction Manager. He’s now an Implementation Assurance Lead with the Campaigns group in Fairbanks.
Over the 25 years she’s worked with Joel, Ann Marie White, Alyeska Systemwide Maintenance Sr. Manager, said that he’s always given the type of above-and-beyond effort and unique perspective that comes from the best kind of TAPS teammate.
“I’ve worked with Joel in a variety of capacities over the last 25 years,” said Ann Marie. “Regardless of his role, he has always been willing to not only answer questions based on his historic knowledge of TAPS but also dig in and help you get the job done. He is a problem-solver – even if it means he needs to jump in a truck and deliver some materials to the crew to keep the work moving forward.”
Almost everyone that talked about Joel and his Lifetime Achievement Award voiced similar themes of supportive leadership and incredible integrity. Don Duke, recently retired Shops Maintenance North Pole Metering Technician, recounted several moments of Joel demonstrating true leadership.
“Joel has never been afraid to get his hands dirty,” said Don. “It was around 2003 when we were able to remove all the old piping and equipment from the original North Pole Metering skid. At that time, Joel was a projects supervisor. He’d show up by 5:45 a.m., put his sandwich in the fridge with the rest of ours and work all day, helping where needed. Joel never left until we were all ready to leave for the day, and that’s not always what you get with project supervisors.”
Don said he also learned more than performing day-to-day work in his time working with Joel during peak flow years in the 1980s.
“Joel always wants to help, and back then, whenever we saw his 10-inch yellow-handled crescent wrench come out, we had to distract him from jumping into the heart of the work,” said Don. “What you see with Joel is what you get, and you knew where he stood on challenges we faced. But at the same time, he was never afraid to admit when he was wrong or recognize when a better idea was proposed. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Joel.”
When Leah Hoffman, Alyeska CMMS Specialist, started her career on TAPS at PS 8 nearly 30 years ago, she witnessed strong leadership traits from her first supervisor, Joel.
“Lots of folks could take a page from Joel’s book; he would never ask something of someone that he wouldn’t do himself,” said Leah. “When Joel sees something that needs to be done, he’ll do it because he’s always well intentioned and forward thinking.”
Mike Malvick, Sr. Flow Assurance Engineer, has worked with Joel for over 30 years. They first collaborated at PS 8 and found themselves working together on TAPS Optimization and Flow Assurance engineering projects.
“Joel demonstrated his systemwide versatility by seemingly effortlessly implementing the PS 8 pig was station, heat tracing the PS 4 pig receiver, installing a gamma densitometer at PS 3 and many other initiatives,” said Mike.
When asked about his favorite projects, facilities, or memories on TAPS, Joel emphasized that every job offered new challenges, and that it’s the people involved that make it successful or not.
“All of my memories here have been good,” said Joel. “I can look at pictures and see successful projects come to an end, and then it’s on to the next challenge.”
Joel has worked on several notable projects, including the RGV upgrade. He considered this his first large project and was quick to share that he learned a lot working with Jerry Vega and Julia Redington, Alyeska Site Engineering Manager.
“There’s is not much that Joel doesn’t know about TAPS,” said Julia. “All the time we spent working on the RGV 72 replacement project back in 2008 was a highlight in my own career. Although, if he makes the coffee on site you may want to check the water supply to see if he used flavored water, as it really doesn’t go well in a cup of joe!”
Joel has seen a lot of change on TAPS, from technology to operations.
“We’ve tried to run the pipeline a lot of different ways over the years,” said Joel. “I like the way we’re working now – we’re getting things done with the right people. I’d like to say that the oil has stayed the same, but the makeup of it has changed over time. What we do has not changed – we move oil, and if you work on TAPS, you’re a part of that regardless of your job role on TAPS.”
Joel noted that each facility has had extremely helpful and knowledgeable individuals. Technology has changed the way Joel and his team perform their work, and Joel has embraced those upgrades.
“Before laptops were widely used, PMs were on a 136-character printer,” said Joel. “I run into people who are hesitant to use systems like Oracle, but you have to move with the technology. I learn a lot from other people.”
Joel noted Jesse Arnold, Stantec Project Manager and Field Engineer, as someone he frequently learns from. Anyone who finds themselves at DIF will often bump into Joel and Jesse troubleshooting their next project.
“Jesse is very innovative with the tools he has and often gives me tips and tricks to make the most out of them too,” said Joel. “If you have people around you who are talented, learn from them.”
Joel and Jesse work closely on projects each year and lean on each other for a variety of support.
“It’s amazing how much planning and project scoping Joel can achieve in a small amount of time,” said Jesse. “If we’re facing a challenge, Joel will troubleshoot with many different people at the various pump stations, with technicians, OCC personnel and the warehouse. He’ll come back with a full solution with equipment, materials, and work plans/contingencies well before the start of most people’s workdays.”
Jesse expanded on the amount of relationships Joel has with people along the line, and how beneficial that is when major and minor details need be worked out.
“Joel never gives up on a task and is unwavering in his drive to complete anything that comes his way, big or small,” said Arnold. “It’s a skill that is hard to find these days. On a personal note, Joel’s a great person. He’s offered to pick me up a handful of times from the airport when I get into town for a project, even during a 2 a.m. arrival.”
Personal moments were weaved into most stories that were recently shared about Joel. Don Duke shared one from 1986.
“Joel has been a friend to me as well as a supervisor and coworker,” said Duke. “My wife Dee Dee and I have known Joel and Iris since our time working at PS 8. When our first son Donny was born, Joel and Iris brought Donny his first stuffed teddy bear.”
Mike Malvick expressed deep gratitude when sharing a story about Joel helping his daughter after she was involved in a caribou and vehicle collision south of Delta Junction.
“My daughter needed repairs done to her car before driving back to Fairbanks, but all the shops were closed over the weekend,” said Mike. “Joel and Iris invited my daughter up to their house where he judiciously applied bailing wire, duct tape and a Sawzall to make her Jeep drivable for the trip home.”
The recent Atigun Award celebration in Fairbanks gave a chance for longtime coworkers to celebrate Joel and share their own experiences working with him, and it is clear that Joel has invested as much into his career as he has the many friendships he’s made along the way.
During his interview, Joel took a moment to reflect on what receiving the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award meant to him.
“When I look back at this, TAPS has been my life,” said Joel. “Up until this, I was looking around for a career. I stayed for the variety and the ability to go wherever my capabilities would take me. I’m happy with my job, and I’ve generally always felt that way. Even if you don’t see the total big picture, I know my sphere of work. My work has an impact on the larger picture.”