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From Beirut to the American Dream

December 17, 2018 | Jason Kuiper | OPPD employees, powerful life
COM_Mo Doghman retirement_homepage

In the first week at his new job in his adopted home state, Mohamad “Mo” Doghman knew he was someplace special. A newly hired service design engineer at OPPD, Doghman and his wife left Kansas City for Nebraska, Mary Doghman’s home state.

He had gone to school at both the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Because of that, Doghman had grown as accustomed to the cold and snowy Midwest as a young man from Beirut, Lebanon could. He had job offers in Atlanta and Oregon with his employer at the time, engineering and construction company Black & Veatch.

But he and Mary wanted to start a family. Nebraska came to mind. The couple wanted to raise their children there. When, they thought of places an engineer could find a good job, OPPD topped the list.

perfect fit

Within days at OPPD, Doghman said he’d found a home. OPPD felt different from his other jobs.

“I came back and said to Mary ‘this is it. This is where I’m going to retire from,’” he said, sitting in his home office sipping coffee with Mary.

Doghman said how OPPD employees view their work as a public service rather than a job is what stuck out. He hadn’t experienced that before.

“I think that is unique to the Midwest and unique to public power,” he said. “To me, it was like the place I grew up, that attitude among the people. We talk about our Core Values now, but people at OPPD have been living them for many years. That’s just how people are.”

Yes, the company has changed over the years, Mo Doghman said, but that sense of community and caring for one another has been constant.

“All these years later, he’s never had what I call ‘Sunday-itis’, said Mary Doghman. “That’s what struck me most. He was always excited to go back to work. Maybe some days there would be something going on at work that he wasn’t looking forward to, but he always loved the job and the people he worked with.”

COM_Mo Doghman retirement_office

Next chapter

On Dec. 1, Doghman retired from OPPD as vice president of Energy Delivery, ending a nearly 30-year career with the utility.

Doghman said he hasn’t taken the time to reflect on his career. That will come later. Right now, he and Mary are looking at their next chapter, retirement. It’s a chance to spend more time together, with their daughters and sons-in-law, and three grandchildren.

There will be trips and volunteer work. He expects to be involved with UNO in some way. In May, the university honored him with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

There will be plenty of tennis, too. Mary plays regularly and beats her husband whenever they play.

“But when we go on vacations, we always bring our rackets,” she said. Each day he inches closer to me, so I probably won’t be able to tease him about that much longer,” she said.

Climbing the ladder

Doghman never sought a certain career path. He didn’t aspire to the executive job he eventually earned. But he stayed open to doing different things and placed the highest value on communication and building relationships.

“I think that’s why I was tapped for different roles over the years,” he said. “It’s not just about getting the work done, but how you get the work done – with integrity, care and respect.”

OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke said Doghman’s departure was “bittersweet.” The utility is losing an exceptional leader who helped OPPD achieve some of its highest reliability metrics ever, Burke said. Doghman took over NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) compliance and oversaw more transmission projects than anyone else in the utility’s history, Burke said.

Burke hired Doghman to become a division manager of Engineering in 2006. The two served together on OPPD’s senior management team since 2010.

Jim Foley, who worked for Doghman as division manager of System Planning & Cost Management before retiring in 2017, said his former boss was a generous person who created a “wonderful, comfortable work environment.”

“He never thought of himself, it was always about others,” Foley said. “That’s what I think about when I think of Mo. He created an environment where you were never afraid to fail. You would learn from those moments and do it better next time. Same thing with the successes, it was always how can we improve?”

Tim Nissen, director of Engineering at OPPD, said he appreciates Doghman’s leadership and admired that he learned English and Electrical Engineering at the same time upon migrating to the U.S.

“Besides Mo’s fingerprint being on much of the design, operations and maintenance of the energy delivery system, he helped establish a program to ensure proper reinvestment back into our equipment, ensuring reliability for our customers over time,” Nissen said. “This program, Transmission & Distribution Improvement Program (TDIP), is still active after 10 years.”

Nissen is also grateful that Mo and Mary were involved in the lives of Mo’s coworkers, lending prayers and encouragement when life challenges arose.

Overcoming challenges

Doghman cited two incidents that tested the utility and its personnel during his tenure. First, was the historic October snowstorm of 1997. That storm brought 13 inches of heavy wet snow that damaged trees and power lines. Some customers had no power for 11 days. At its peak, 150,000 customers were without power because of the storm’s damage. That storm resulted in widespread changes within the utility.

“After that storm, my focus for the last 20 years has been on reliability and grid resilience,” Doghman said. “Now we are recognized with having some of the highest reliability in the country, and that is something some very large companies have taken notice of.”

The 2011 flood is another memorable event. He and fellow vice president Jon Hansen, who retired in 2017, both spent a lot of time at Fort Calhoun Station (FCS) during that time. Doghman, Burke and Hansen spent nearly a month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology prior to the flood taking nuclear reactor course for executives.

“It was good vision and preparation by Gary Gates (OPPD’s CEO at the time) to send us there,” Doghman said. “It helped us when we were called on to help oversee the plant. We weren’t experts; the experts were at the plant. But we knew enough and had the technical competency to provide the independent nuclear oversight leadership that was needed.”

He remembered going up in a helicopter to survey the extent of damage and the threat posed by the Missouri River. Flood waters threatened FCS, Nebraska City Station and the utility’s transmission system.

“I’m really proud of how our people responded to the flood, what we accomplished in protecting our and our customer’s assets,” he said. “And later, to coming out of (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) 0350 oversight.”

active in the industry

Doghman oversaw Nuclear Oversight at FCS after the flood for several years. He served on numerous boards, including the Southwest Power Pool and American Red Cross Nebraska.

“I have no regrets,” he said. “I’d do it all again.”

family shot
Shown, from left, are Mo and Mary Doghman, their daughter, Sara, and her husband, Michael Holdsworth, grandchildren, Caraline, Hanna, Lane, their daughter, Maya, and her husband, Neal Bonacci.

Mary said his is the “Great American Dream” story. It took tremendous courage for her husband to come here from Lebanon and achieve all he has. She proudly points to her husband’s degree in engineering and masters degrees in business administration and power systems along with retiring as a vice president and chief compliance officer for one of the nation’s largest public power utilities.

He marveled at the challenges he encountered upon arriving in the U.S. and now leaves OPPD with the highest governmental security clearance a civilian can attain, he noted with pride.

“I was armed with dreams and a willingness to work hard,” he said. “I came to this country with so little, not knowing the language or the culture. I feel very blessed and am grateful to my family, wife, co-workers and this great country.”

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

View all posts by Jason Kuiper >

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