Alaskan grit, determination and pride

About Us

Leah "Honea" Hoffman / Maintenance Planner/Scheduler Lead

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I came on in the fall of 1994 as a Pump Station Admin Assistant at Pump Station 8.  I was 22 years old and very excited to be working on the pipeline. Security thoroughly searched me and then upon finding out it was my birthday, the next day brought me in a cake. It was a wonderful opportunity for me, and I made some of the most fantastic friendships there. I treasure my time there.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. After my first job, I was the Pump Station Administrative Assistant at both Pump Station 7 and Pump Station 8. I did a two-year pipeline technician internship at Pump Station 7.  I’ve worked in training as a technical writer, as the assistant to a vice president, and really found my niche with planning about 13 years ago. I’ve done planning for the pump stations and the roving maintenance team. I would have liked to continue as technician, but at the time, several pump stations were being shut down, so I changed positions again. That technical experience really helps me in my work now.

Describe the TAPS culture.  How is it shared with new employees? There’s a culture to TAPS. Everyone out here understands and has experienced some sort of loss of their own family time. Here at work, your coworkers become your family.  Like any family, there’re ups and downs. Our culture is rich, vibrant, evolving and complex.

I love how I can go just about anywhere on the pipeline or Valdez and I know someone, or we have someone in common. I can see someone I haven’t seen in a while and we pick up right were we left off, even though it might have been two weeks or two years since we last talked.

I think for those new to TAPS, they shouldn’t be intimidated or afraid to ask questions.  Ask! There’s always someone with a great explanation and, usually a story as well.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The relationships I have with my coworkers. I love picking up my phone and talking to someone in Prudhoe Bay, and then in the next breath, calling Valdez about something. I like working with people and knowing that they want the same thing I do – a safe and efficient company. We all love Alaska and want the oil and gas industry to thrive while keeping Alaska just as pristine and wild as ever.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? As a technician, I had a mentor (Ursula Netscher) who impressed upon me the need for teamwork and innovation. I always had a team of folks beside me who never, ever let me feel like I was an imposition for asking questions, seeking another set of hands, or stepping back and reassessing. That ingrained in me the knowledge that there’s never a reason someone should get hurt. You can always stop and get help or reassess how you’re going to do the work.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I don’t have a favorite, of course. I adopted my daughter while I was at Pump Station 8.  Jean Leder, a technician electrician at Pump Station 8, got everyone together and gave me a baby shower. At the time, there was a really big project going on at the station.  I’ll never forget all these strangers congratulating me and sitting down to have a slice of cake with me.

Or Joel Lindsey, showing me how to use the deluge gun on the fire truck. It turns out a very windy day is ill-advised for this sort of training. We were both drenched.

I have so many wonderful, cherished memories of the last 18 years on this pipeline.  I am truly blessed and honored to have worked with so many fine, wonderful people. 

I can’t begin the name or thank all the people who helped me along the way.  Just know that I’m grateful to you all.

Fred Wentz / Galbraith Maintenance Base O&M Supervisor

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have worked for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company since 1977. The work atmosphere and the caliber of all the field and corporate employees have been and continue to be very gratifying in many respects.  A few years ago during a United Way campaign, they had a saying: “We are the Pipeline People.”

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I have worked in the field as a pipeline technician and as a O&M supervisor since 1977. Twenty-six years of that has been north of the Brooks Range.

Describe the TAPS culture.  How is it shared with new employees? I would like to say each and every one of the employees that works on TAPS epitomizes what TAPS culture is. Alyeska and the companies that work on TAPS work day after day to ensure the safety of everyone’s personal well being.  We work to achieve an open work environment, and every single employee has the knowledge they know they can stop work at any time if it is deemed unsafe.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I enjoy working with the folks we have employed in the TAPS family. We all work to the best of our ability to ensure we have a high quality of work being done and that we are doing it right.  When there is a pipeline shutdown, it's all hands on deck to troubleshoot and get the pipeline running again.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? During my first year at Pump Station 5 as a young 18-year-old, the head chef at the pump station was making steaks.  I asked for two steaks (they were large steaks).  He said, “Come back after your first one.” I was back in line about 5 minutes later.

Over the years, we have had some of the best cooks working along the pipeline. It’s a good feeling to know when your day starts or ends, you have a quality cooked meal waiting for you. Thirty-five years later, it is much the same. During holiday meals, it really is a feast made special for the field.  If you can’t be with your loved ones, our catering staff works hard to make our home away from home pleasurable in the meals they prepare.

Kelly Nease / Incident Management Team & Preparedness Coordinator

Is this your first job or have you worked for Alyeska awhile?  Why did you decide to start working for Alyeska and/or why do you continue working here? I started working on TAPS as a contractor in June 2007. I became an Alyeska employee July 2010. I decided to work for Alyeska because both of my parents worked for this company and growing up my dad always said it was a great place to work. I continue working for this company because of the people. This company is fortunate to have so many wonderful hard working people within it, and I am fortunate to be able to work with many of them.

Have you held other jobs at Alyeska?  If so, what were they and why have you changed? I started out as the Power Vapor Administrative Assistant, and was with them when they were transitioned into the Utilities Team. I was also given the opportunity to work with the Fire/Safety Team and the Maintenance Team in the same capacity on a temporary basis. I was then hired at SERVS as their Compliance Analyst. I like to fix things, once I get into a position, and I feel that I have made it better for the next person to come along, I am ready to move on to the next challenge.

Do you think there is a TAPS culture?  If so, what is it?  How do we share and pass on our culture to new employees? I definitely believe we have a culture. Alyeska has the type of culture we should all be proud of! We continue to focus on flawless operations, breaking down silos within our organization and development programs, that is just to name a few.  By role modeling, coaching and story telling we can pass this culture along to not only new employees, but the ones that have been here for years.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The opportunity for growth, and the encouragement to do so. I have never worked for a company that encourages people to grow to move onto bigger and better things.

Alyeska values safety, teamwork, and innovation.  Can you share an example of how you have seen one of these values (or all) demonstrated on TAPS? I see it everyday, when I go out into the parking lot I observe several employees doing their 360 on work/personnel vehicles. SERVS is gaining a better relationship with state regulators by open communication. It is hard to pinpoint just a few examples when I observe all of them everyday.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? Honestly I really don’t have a favorite. I have enjoyed everyday working for this company. They range from volunteering for United Way, being the MC for our Holiday party and being part of a team that feels like a family.

Scott Hicks / Valdez Marine Terminal Director

Describe your history with Alyeska: My Alyeska experience began in 1986 on the Terminal as a project manager. My family and I left Alaska in 1991, but I returned in 1998 to work in Fairbanks as a pipeline advisor focusing on project activities. My roles have included Fairbanks area project manager, various roles throughout the Electrification and Automation project, and operations and maintenance supervisor at PS7 and PS9.  Since 2007 I’ve been the Galbraith area manager, accountable for PS3 and PS4 operations and maintenance activities.

What do you enjoy most about working for Alyeska? The commitment to providing a safe work environment for our talented employees, our “can do” attitude and the approach to making our system as safe and efficient as possible. I also enjoy the numerous challenges and opportunities afforded by the type of work we do, the scope and variety of work and of course, location, location, location!

What are you most looking forward to in your new role in Valdez? It will be interesting to work in another facet of our business with some familiar and many new folks. I’m particularly looking forward to the challenges of maintaining and operating a vitally important facility, and working with the Valdez team to raise the level of safety performance beyond “Nobody Gets Hurt,” creating an environment where the expectation is to eliminate the opportunity to have an incident.

What do you do in your spare time? Downhill and backcountry skiing, family time, playing and helping with youth ice hockey (particularly with my son Todd’s teams), watching my daughter’s equestrian events, fly-fishing, and woodworking.  Oh, and did I mention skiing?

Tom Coghill / Senior Area Project Manager

Describe what you do for Alyeska: I am accountable for ensuring that projects follow Alyeska processes and that best industry practices are used to maximize project value.  I provide coaching, mentoring and oversight to project managers and construction managers. 

What do you like about your job? Each day on a project is another opportunity to learn.  I learn and pass along information and my own insight so our teams become better at all the things we do.

What are some projects you will work on in the coming months? I have all the programs – about $50 million dollars of annual major maintenance work in my scope. This work helps ensure pipeline integrity.  This spring we experienced flooding along the Sag River at Pipeline Milepost 47.  Although the existing erosion control on TAPS worked as designed, it was damaged during the flooding. I will be securing funding and rebuilding those structures.

What makes a project a success? Project success is a happy client.  The project must satisfy the client’s needs for quantity and quality, while making sure Alyeska Pipeline gets the most for each dollar spent.

What do you do in your spare time? My family has recently moved back to Anchorage from North Pole, where we lived for 13 years.  We are still “fitting” into our new home.  Since returning to Anchorage, and in-between completing house projects, I enjoy woodturning.  Each bowl or hollow vessel is unique. Each is a combination of technique and nature that always results in a surprise.

Wes Willson / Emergency Preparedness & Compliance Manager

Describe the work you do for Alyeska: My primary accountability is managing the Pipeline Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan, commonly called the C-Plan. The C-Plan describes the pipeline transportation system – all of our prevention programs, how we manage our resources in case of an incident, and details training and exercises necessary to implement the response elements of the plan. The Emergency Preparedness & Compliance department is comprised of subject matter experts in various areas of response. Our department oversees the initial and annual refresher training program, the pipeline exercise and drill program, the pipeline oil spill equipment program, the vessel operations program, and many other programs that help us meet our spill prevention and response commitments.

What do you like best about your job? Working for Alyeska. My first job out of school was for an environmental consulting company and the first TAPS job I did was at the VMT sampling soil stockpiles. I’ve been with Alyeska for 10 years, but I have worked on TAPS for 17 years. I’ve always been amazed at the engineering marvel that TAPS is and getting to be a part of that system is a privilege. Also, I have always been impressed by how Alyeska can come together and effectively deal with an emergency. We have our differences of opinion and sometimes competing priorities, but when the call comes in, everyone will come together to effectively deal with the emergency.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? I’ve been coaching youth hockey since graduating from UAF – 16 years now. This year I coached the Fairbanks Ice Puppies and, for the first time got to coach one of my own children. It was a great experience. I still enjoy playing hockey, at least once a year for the UAF Alumni games, although nearing 40 and playing goalie may not be the smartest move on my part. During the summer, I try to take my family camping each weekend. I have been involved with the Interior Alaska Gun Dog association for the last seven years. I have a 7-year-old Labrador retriever who only needs two more passes to get her Hunting Retriever Champion title and I have a 7-month-old Lab who has a long, long, long way to go. Oh yeah, I started playing golf three years ago and am totally hooked.

Aesthetically, what is your favorite part of the pipeline and why? Pump Station 4 during the summer or early fall has to be my favorite. I will always remember the first time I drove over Atigun and felt like I had stumbled into a brand new landscape. The wide open views of the tundra, the abundance of wildlife, and the harshness of the Brooks Range always make for spectacular viewing.

Greg Coombs / Project Engineer

Describe the work you do for Alyeska: I am a project engineer working in Engineering Design Services. My accountabilities include taking a project from a basic idea to a completed operating facility. The basic steps of this process include defining the project, selecting the best options, and getting a design package completed for the implementation of the project.

Describe your role in this summer’s first maintenance shutdown: I was the project engineer for the two projects worked on at Pump Station 3 during the shutdown. The work included the removal of the piping tees connected to the legacy pumps, and the installation of a new 48‑inch ball valve to replace the old valve in the manifold building. My primary role was to be onsite to deal with any engineering issues that may have come up during the shutdown. I liken my role to that of the Maytag repairman; luckily no major problems came up during the shutdown. I credit that to the work done by the Project Manager, Tom Coghill, and the Construction Manager, Mike Hale, as well the work done by the construction crew from CASI, and their site superintendents, Erik Gabrielson and John Thilges. The planning and preparation to get ready for this shutdown really paid off.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? I enjoy the time I spend with my wife, Yolanda, my daughter, Danielle, and my son, Jason and his family. I also enjoy swimming, riding my bike, running, reading “Jack Reacher” novels, figuring out Sudoku puzzles, and playing with our cats, Tiger and Smokey.

Bryan Brown / Human Resources Information Systems Manager

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Outside of work, I enjoy time spent with my family – sometimes that’s nothing more than dinner and a movie, or maybe just a good movie at home. As a family, we also enjoy camping and fishing - I think the kids prefer the “catching” trips more than just the “fishing” trips.

In addition to family activities, I spend as much time hunting and fishing as I can manage. And, I try to attend as many Alaska Aces’ games as possible.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? This is a much harder question to answer, but I think it gets back to the people and what Alyeska really means to the state of Alaska.

For the “people angle” - I have a long history with Alyeska. I was here twice before as a contractor and my wife worked for Alyeska for over 10 years and it just never got out of my system. Many of the people I met my first time here more than 10 years ago are still my friends today. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some really great people.

And as for the “state angle” – Alaska is my home and always has been. I’ve seen our state go through many changes and challenges and (as many of us) can see more challenges on the horizon. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company is truly at the heart of our oil industry and has a significant impact to the state’s overall economy. It means a lot to me to be working for Alyeska, and, in my own way, giving something back to the state I call home.

What is your favorite part of the pipeline, and why? My favorite part of the pipeline is definitely the haul road. Being technical in nature, you would think I might go for some of the high-tech gadgets we use in monitoring, measuring and maintaining the pipeline, but not in this case.

I tend to gravitate towards the extreme and unusual, and the haul road definitely fits that bill. As a contractor, I was lucky enough to get to drive the entire line for work…and I loved it. It was cold with low visibility, and at one point we had to spend an extra night at a pump station because it was “too cold” to drive…a great adventure that I got paid to go on.

I could go into detail on how vital the haul road is, etc., etc., but I thought I would just keep it to the exciting and “fun” reason I like it. I think many who know me would say I should have been a truck driver anyway.

Sean Wisner / Fire Chief / Health & Safety Supervisor

Describe the work you do for Alyeska? I currently hold the position of Fire Chief / Health & Safety Supervisor for Alyeska Fire and Rescue at the Valdez Marine Terminal.

What do you like best about your job? The most rewarding aspect of my job is the camaraderie and “esprit de corps” of being involved in the fire service. I also enjoy the opportunities for developing, implementing, and instructing training programs for the fire brigade and rope rescue team at the Terminal. I am very proud of the work that I do as Fire Chief, especially when the opportunity arises to help someone in need or save a life in the line of duty.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Outside of work, I enjoy the volunteer work that I do for the Valdez Search and Rescue Team and the Alaska Avalanche Information Center. I also have several hobbies such as backcountry skiing, snowmachining, kiteboarding and surfing, to name a few, although most of my free time is dedicated to sharing my love of the outdoors with my 6-year old son and 3-year old daughter.

Sam Swatzell / SERVS Operations Supervisor

Describe the work you do for Alyeska? As Interim Operations Supervisor for the Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS), our mission is to transport oil safely from the Valdez Marine Terminal to 17 miles past Hinchinbrook in Prince William Sound. It’s an extension of the pipeline to me. I supervise eight response coordinators, which are responsible for prevention and the open water response arena. Currently, if there was an event I would be slotted in the group supervisor role. I am taking courses in order to participate in the Incident Management Team (IMT).

What do you like most about working for Alyeska? I like working at SERVS because of the marine environment. Before I worked for Alyeska, I was a mariner for many years. I was raised in Homer, Alaska and commercial fished for almost 20 years. I mainly fished Cook Inlet salmon, and halibut and crab in the Bering Sea. If you ever get the chance to eat Blue King Crab from the Bering Sea take it. It is excellent! I also enjoy working with all the people in Alyeska, contractors and the folks on the vessels.

Looking back at 2009, what changes did you make regarding safety? The Operations team made a commitment to get out in the field more. We made a pledge to listen to any concerns the employees may have about safety, ask how the work is going and take the opportunity to conduct a Loss Prevention Observation (LPO).

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? During the winter I enjoy downhill skiing and in the summer, I ride my motorcycle with my wife Donnely. I care about Alaska and its environment. My personal eco-system is the water and the coastline of Alaska – where I work and live.

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