Seattle City (spot)Light: Melissa Skelton

Melissa Skelton has been at City Light for three and a half years. She initially served as a Legal Affairs Advisor on a small team in the General Manager’s Office, but now works in Regulatory Affairs as a strategic advisor. “I love my job. I’m in the right place at the right time,” Melissa said. “My work centers around monitoring regulatory policy issues and dockets at the federal regulatory level for matters associated with transmission and wholesale sales of power.  So, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is my main ballpark, where we look at high-level issues that affect the entire utility and engage City Light as necessary.”

Melissa was born in Washington D.C. but spent most of her life in Kansas. She attended the University of Kansas (go Jayhawks!) and earned a degree in Biodiversity, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology. “With my ecology background, it really matters to me how City Light interacts with our environment,” Melissa shared. “Everything we do (or don’t do) affects every other living thing on this planet.”

After college, she took the legal route and attended Washburn University School of Law. Melissa and her husband Joshua relocated to Seattle in 2014 and welcomed their first child, Malcolm, two years later. This past February, they welcomed their second son, Conrad.

In this week’s (spot)Light, Melissa talks about the joys of being a mother, running with elk and sailing around the world.

 

Melissa with her family.

“I love trying new things. I love to cook and travel. I like to hike, go to hot yoga, anything active. I also enjoy reading, being part of book clubs, all those types of things. What’s cool is that Joshua and I incorporate our kids into the things we like. We bought a double jogging stroller, so we take them out when we go for a run or take them hiking. We can still do a lot of the things we love and show them what we love.”

“Right now, I’m focused on running. I’m training for a 10k in September and excited to have a reason to train. It’s also helping me get back in shape after having our second baby. There are two places where I love to run. One is Meadowbrook Farm. It’s right at the base of Mount Si. It has beautiful views. There’s a big elk herd out there; you can often see them in the early morning hours. It’s neat to be out there with your thoughts and nature and run next to elk. How cool is that? The other place I like to run is Snoqualmie which is where I live. We have some bears in the neighborhood behind us. They’re black bears so they’re not aggressive but there is a mom with two babies, so you must be careful. I have a pretty fast pace when I run in the evenings around there!”

“I was fortunate to do the Semester at Sea program when I was in college, which is a semester aboard a ship sailing to ten locations all around the world. We started in Vancouver, then went to Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Egypt, Croatia, Turkey, Italy, and Morocco before ending back in Miami. It was an amazing opportunity and opened my eyes to issues around the world. I’m looking forward to international travel again in the future (once the boys are out of diapers!).”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Scott Richter

Office Aide Scott Richter has worked at City Light for 20 years. As part of the Safety, Health and Wellness team, Scott helps to manage the day-to-day duties of the division.  “I’m responsible for a lot of the filing, office supply maintenance and mail deliveries,” Scott explained. “I also help with CLEA and our archives.”

Originally from Mississippi, Scott moved to Washington with his family. He’s lived here for 30 years and currently resides in Federal Way. In this week’s (spot)Light, Scott talks about his journey at City Light and shares a few of his hobbies (hint: you can find him at the movies).

Scott on a recent trip to Disneyland

“I like going to the movies. I make recommendations to others and tell people what films they should and shouldn’t see. Right now, I’m excited to see Mamma Mia 2. I liked the first movie so much and am looking forward to the new one. The music is fun; I like musicals. I also like to watch TV and play my Nintendo Switch.”

“Canada is on my bucket list. My parents and sister have visited. I also want to check out the ‘Wings Over Washington’ ride at the pier. Within the past year, I took a trip to California and visited Disneyland. I hadn’t been there since I was seven. It was nice to see all the changes and visit two parks instead of one. While I was there, I got to ride ‘Soarin’ Around the World.’ It was interesting. I want to compare that attraction to ‘Wings Over Washington’ because it focuses on local scenery.”

“I’m a sports fan. I like it all. I’ve been watching the Seattle Storm. The Sounders are trying to win some games to get into the playoffs. The Mariners are struggling but I still watch them. I support all our local teams. Once a year, I’ll go to a game at Husky Stadium.”

“I was the City’s first supported employee. During my time here, I’ve been recognized with a Light, Power and Pride award for customer service. I wish other supported employees would receive the same recognition. I think some people forget what we do and how valuable we are. We bring many years of service; there are now more than 100 supported employees throughout the City. The program has grown a lot and I’ve come a long way since I was first hired. It’s been a long road, but I now have a strong support system. The people I work with check on me, on my job tasks. They know what I’m capable of doing. There was even a time when the team asked for my opinion about hiring another supported employee. I shared my advice and they took it. It’s a good feeling.”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Eugene Haller

Sr. Compliance Analyst Eugene Haller has been at City Light for two and a half years. As part of the Regulatory Affairs division, Eugene helps ensure that the utility is following government regulations. “There are quite a few regulations that are put out by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC),” Eugene explained. “All of these regulations promote electrical grid reliability. Kind of like OSHA which promotes safety. It’s the same deal on the electrical side.”

Before joining City Light, Eugene served in the Navy for nine years. During his tenure, he attended the Navy’s Nuclear Electronic Technician School. “It was a fantastic hands-on experience,” Eugene said. While in the Navy, he also attended The New School in New York state and graduated with a degree in human resources management. “My career is nowhere near the subject I studied in school,” Eugene shared with a laugh.

Eugene and his wife Kirsten are high school sweethearts who have been married for 17 years. They live in Black Diamond with their two daughters, Claire and Chloe. “Spending time with my girls is my favorite thing to do – even if it’s just picking raspberries in the backyard,” Eugene said.

In this week’s (spot)Light, Eugene talks about his time in the Navy and shares a few of his hobbies.

Eugene with his family at Rattlesnake Ridge

“Work’s been dynamic recently. The industry has been fast-paced in keeping up with technology and other advancements. We’ve been busy with different projects. We recently turned over an entire suite of standards that impact the system control center. That was substantial. Our team also helped to ensure that the Denny substation was brought in correctly on the compliance side.”

“I served as an Electronics Technician in the Navy – it’s kind of how I got started in this field. I went to South Carolina where I did some of my schooling and eventually transferred to the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in Everett. From there, I went to New York where I taught for three and a half years. I absolutely loved teaching as an instructor in New York. The Navy was a great experience for me. I was able to travel the world, meet new people and learn so much from my time as an instructor and as a student. My favorite place I visited was Australia. It was a three-week port call which made for a lot of fun. The extended time gave us more opportunity to explore.”

“I still love to travel. My wife and I go camping in Nehalem Bay in Oregon. We’ve made it our annual camping trip these past five years. It’s just beautiful. The kids love playing in the creeks. My wife and I are rock hounds, so we’re always looking for interesting finds.  We like looking for agate rocks in the waters down there. Another favorite hobby of mine is shed horn hunting. It requires a lot of hiking and gets you out in the wilderness. Over the years, I’ve collected some beautiful antlers. I plan to start making items out of them. So far, I’ve made a coat rack and a towel hanger. I want to build a lamp or chandelier and maybe some furniture like a bench or stool.”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Josh Walter

Josh Walter first began his City Light career as an intern in 2008. In 2009, he returned to the utility and now serves as a Strategic Advisor for the Power Contracts, Regional Affairs and Strategic Planning division. “We advocate for City Light and our resources to participate in energy markets in the West to benefit our customers,” Josh explained. “We work directly with the Bonneville Power Administration and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and try to make it easier and cost effective to bring our hydro resources into various market opportunities.”

A Montana native, Josh attended Washington State University and later transferred to Montana State University where he graduated with a degree in political science. He also spent two years in AmeriCorps and attended law school at Vermont Law School. “I started law school with the intent of studying environmental law,” Josh explained. “At the time, our school offered a new curriculum that specialized in energy. I found myself moving away from the environmental focus and spent more time on the energy law and policy side of my legal studies.”

Josh lives in South Lake Union but is moving to the Leschi neighborhood with his wife Kelly and their two children, Amelia (four years old) and Leo (ten months old). In this week’s (spot)Light, he talks about his role at the utility and shares a few of his hobbies.

Josh and his son Leo (at 8 weeks old)

“I grew up in Butte, Montana. It was everything you could want as a kid. I was surrounded by mountains and rivers and spent a lot of time outside. I’ve always enjoyed living in places that have great access to the outdoors…. Montana…. Washington…. Vermont. When I was in AmeriCorps, I served as a crew leader for the Montana Conservation Corp and spent a ton of time in Yellowstone. That was beautiful.”

“I’ve been trying as much as I can to get back into running. Historically, it’s something I’ve done quite a bit, but has just gotten harder with two kids. I like running along the waterfront. I’m also a woodworker. I do quite a bit of woodworking when I have the time. I’ve made cabinets, tables, and various other pieces of furniture. There are quite a few things floating around our house that I have made…our dining room table…cutting boards…our book shelf. Recently, I made a vanity for my parents’ home.”

In terms of his work at Seattle City Light, “our group conducts a lot of research and participates in numerous and diverse stakeholder groups. This mainly consists of utilities getting together to discuss initiatives to see where we might fit in; and for Seattle, how these potential activities will benefit our customers. For example, Bonneville or CAISO may have a new idea or a change to a current business practice. We participate to influence what the ultimate outcomes are. We’re advocating to make it better for City Light and our customers.”

“One of the great things about this work is I’m always working on something new. Things move relatively slow in the energy world, but there’s enough change in issues to keep it interesting. There’s a lot of new, innovative, interesting things to keep us intellectually stimulated. We have a great workgroup. I also like that my interest in the environment is an important theme here. I value the fact that environmental issues are a major focus of the utility.”

Seattle City Light and Seattle Fire Department Partner to Address Network Vault Fires

Credit: K. Kennedy

 

At an event and demonstration today with the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle City Light, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the first-in-the-nation partnership today between Seattle City Light and the Seattle Fire Department to more effectively fight fires in underground electrical vaults.

“Seattle has always been at the leading edge, and thanks to this innovative partnership, Seattle is now at the leading edge of fighting fires that are a danger to the public, our infrastructure, and our economy,” said Mayor Durkan during a demonstration of the new approach at City Light’s North Service Center. “This is the kind of collaboration and innovation we need as we work to deliver essential services, protect the public, and provide reliable electricity that powers Seattle. I am grateful to the men and women of the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle City Light who have made this vision for partnership a reality and who put themselves in harm’s way to limit the impact of these dangerous fires.”

The event included members of the Vault Response Team, which is comprised of specially trained Seattle Firefighters as well as executive members from both departments and other advocates of this partnership.

Last month, SFD Chief Harold Scoggins and City Light Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs reached an agreement to solidify the partnership between the two departments and the Vault Response Team. The 48 members of the Vault Response Team will be continually trained to safely address the public safety needs resulting from network vault fire incidents. City Light will provide specialized supplies and equipment to treat these fires along with updated intel on City Light’s network maps.

Fire Chief Harold Scoggins praised the partnership for its innovation and what it means for other departments across the country.

“Vault fires create dangerous situations in confined spaces. Before this team was created, standard procedure was to keep the area clear and wait for the fire to burn itself out. This partnership, which takes an offensive approach, is a major advancement in our field and is an example that other energy providers and fire departments want to learn from. We are proud and thankful to have this vital resource here in Seattle.”

Electrical vault fires can be caused by something as simple as a cigarette butt landing on a pile of dried leaves or as critical as an arc flash created during maintenance. Their impact is costly and can be dangerous to the public and the firefighters extinguishing them. Within an instant, the pressure of a vault fire can launch a 300-pound utility cover up to three stories. To further complicate matters, these fires may cause large-scale power outages.

The fire department and City Light are deploying a new technology that can effectively and efficiently extinguish vault fires. With a financial contribution from City Light, the fire department revived an older truck that was scheduled for decommission to address these kinds of fires.

Armed with carbon dioxide canisters, Seattle firefighters can now remove the utility hole cover, insert a metal wand and inject the vault with carbon dioxide while covering the opening with a fire-resistant tarp. This removes the oxygen from the area, snuffing the fire by robbing it of oxygen. It is an offensive approach that keeps the fire from spreading throughout the entire vault system. Once the fire is out and the vault is cleared of smoke and carbon dioxide, City Light can de-energize electrical equipment, making the area safe for crews to begin repairs.

“This partnership enhances the safety of our both departments’ employees. We are exchanging information on safety practices and institutional knowledge while training together to ensure that these fires are extinguished safely and efficiently,” Baggs said. “Not only will this process reduce the amount of damage from these fires, but it can also greatly reduce the repair and outage time. This partnership is an insurance policy for our customers, the economic drivers in Seattle’s business core and for the public servants who address these fires.”

This technology reduces the potentially disastrous effect of these kinds of fires. While this method is crucial, the partnership between the fire department and City Light is the key ingredient to ensure its success. For Seattle Fire Captain Chris Greene, the technology behind extinguishing these fires is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

“There are a variety of great products available to handle high-voltage emergencies, but without a partnership, fire departments and utilities are missing a key component,” explains Greene. “CO2 and other chemical extinguishers are in fact effective, but it’s an engineered solution to a problem that can have significant impacts. The true solution is a foundational relationship with the energy provider like City Light that builds long before a fire begins.”