Posted By Lyndsey Kleven,
Friday, May 31, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 2019
The member spotlight series features OOGA members making an impact with their membership. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Lyndsey Kleven at: email@example.com
Tracy Stevens was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, and came to Ohio to attend Kent State University. Originally, she set out to go into journalism, but veered paths and finished school with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in rhetoric. Throughout this time, she was building soft skills through extracurricular involvement with nonprofit boards, leadership and teambuilding programs, all of which kept her in the community after her formal education was finished. At this time, it was the late 1980s and she decided to take a few months off to get married and have her daughter, before jumping back into the workforce.
Stevens has been teaching communication classes at Kent State University since 1984 and is still teaching there today. In addition, she started working for the Canton Repository in 1990. The Repository hired her as a Newspaper and Education Literacy Coordinator, where she worked with local schools to develop programming to use the newspaper to increase literacy.
What transpired next led Stevens into the energy and utility industry when Dominion Energy came knocking on the door, recruiting Stevens as its Associate Education Representative. This happened in 1993 just as there were a lot of changes on the horizon for natural gas, Local Distribution Company (LDC) and the energy business as a whole.
“I brought all my background in education and curriculum assessment into that position and started branching out my portfolio and career path with Dominion,” described Stevens.
Dominion Energy Experience
Stevens has worked for Dominion Energy for the last 26 years. In her early days as the Education Representative, the focus was on the entire soup-to-nuts process of educating consumers on how they were getting their energy. A lot of this was done in the time of career-technology and was accomplished working directly with superintendents of schools, curriculum directors, educating students in STEM work, and helping to support science fairs. Stevens recalled having a kit of materials (which she still has) to explain the industry and how it moves gas.
Some of her career progression throughout the organization was organic, and some of it was through the changing evolution of Dominion Energy through acquisitions and the integration of companies that created shifting roles. The Education Representative role transpired into Local Affairs Manager, which later on lent itself to picking up the government affairs piece. Stevens continued to build community relationships with city council members, county commissioners, engineers at all levels and would be liaison for preconstruction meetings.
“When I’m sitting in the room with all of the chamber folks because we’re working with nonprofits, and the economic development people are there, I already have those relationships,” described Stevens.
Stevens is now the External Affairs Manager of Dominion Energy, with her focus area covering eastern and southern pieces of Ohio, including all of the shale counties. When asked to describe what External Affairs means, she says it is a catch-all for internal and external populations. The relationships Stevens has fostered over the years, have made her the person to call, and then she can direct to the right area within Dominion Energy. This can cover almost anything from internal engineers upgrading a compressor station, dealing with pre-construction meetings and consumer issues, all the way to a request from a nonprofit asking for funding to support a program.
Dominion Energy is best described as a broad-based energy company, with nearly 7.5 million customers in 18 states supplying homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas. The company has more than $100 billion in assets providing electric generation, transmission and distribution, as well as natural gas storage, transmission, distribution and import/export services. They also have an entire renewable portfolio and is a leader in solar operations.
Dominion Energy has had historical relationships with Ohio producers for more than a hundred years and will continue to far into the future. Producers provide its product to Dominion Energy, which serves as the local distribution company to get that gas into homes. This entails LDC construction maintenance crews to lay pipe, both main line and service line, and field metering services personnel, ensuring the safety of those lines to the meter. Natural gas service interruptions can be more disruptive than electrical outages, replacing gas lines or planned maintenance work often require entry to the home to test that lines are safe. All of which is done with two main priorities, safety and compliance.
Stevens said, “our focus on safety is matched by our commitment to compliance, to make sure that all of our people, products, and pipelines, as well as customers safety.”
The biggest change that Stevens has seen over the years is the availability of gas from the Utica shale play. At times Dominion Energy received 80% of its gas from Ohio producers. Some of the pipeline projects have really changed the landscape and provided more opportunities for their customer base. They have long-term commitments for larger pipelines, and are now focusing on working as a LDC to be able to facilitate changes in its territory, where previously, they would have faced constrain and not had access to a local producer.
The energy industry has been appealing and kept Stevens around for more than two decades because each day is different. Coming from a background in education and nonprofit, she did not have a scientific or technical background and enjoyed the learning curve.
“The chance to learn the energy business is something that has afforded me so much variety in each of the areas I’ve worked. I’ve learned about call centers, pipelines, safety and product. I’m also thrilled to be part of an industry that is going to give so much opportunity for economic advancement in the communities we’re working in too,” said Stevens.
Stevens predicts that over the next five years the industry is going to see even more economic development. It is exciting for Stevens to see Southeastern Ohio been put on the map thanks to the oil and gas industry. Hometown opportunity being created in manufacturing and the potential of petrochemical plants in this region just make so much sense.
Dominion Energy has always been involved with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. Stevens personally became involved over the last five years as she was building economic development relationships. Not being extremely familiar with all of the innerworkings of the oil and gas industry, she felt the need to better understand the producer community and the best way of doing so was to become an OOGA member.
“The networking opportunities has led to a lot of really innovative opportunities to help communities I’m working in. I’ve been really pleased to be a member of OOGA to be able to do that,” said Stevens. “Paying forward and paying it back are extremely important to me personally and also to Dominion Energy—it’s a really nice partnership that OOGA satisfies.”
Coming from a background in communications, it was a natural fit for Stevens to get involved with the OOGA communications committee. Dominion Energy is the original premier corporate member of the Association and has many other people from its staff involved in various capacities.
Stevens also cited the diversity in OOGA’s membership, from its legacy producers to shale producers, have provided great learning opportunities. To have all of those people in one room has been extremely beneficial and helped make her more informed about the industry. She says she looks forward to continuing to learn more about all that OOGA does, and how it can help continue to move the industry forward.