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Safety and service are key for Syracuse manager

January 20, 2020 | Jason Kuiper | OPPD employees, T&D
OPPD Syracuse service center manager Kurt Teten

Kurt Teten grew up on a farm about 12 miles from OPPD’s Syracuse Service Center. His parents and his wife’s parents live in town.

He knew in high school he wanted to be a lineman at OPPD after briefly considering a career as an electrician. Now Teten is the manager of the center along with the rural offices in Ashland, Louisville, Tecumseh and Humboldt.

Safety first

Teten has been with OPPD for nearly 30 years. Most recently he was a field supervisor before serving as a line tech for years.

He’s seen a lot of changes. But none more rewarding than the huge improvements in safety.

“My number one goal is to get everyone home safely every night,” Teten said. “If we don’t accomplish that, everything else we do is a failure.”

Teten said OPPD employees work in hazardous environments every day, so it is the duty of the utility and its leaders to make sure those employees have the tools, training and awareness to stay as safe as possible.

Teten said when he started at OPPD – as a helper at the utility’s Papillion Center – it wasn’t uncommon for the utility to have 30 or more lost-time injuries in a given year.

“With modern tools and techniques, along with a higher level of safety awareness, we have lowered that number to less than five,” Teten said.

For Teten, there is no such thing as a “normal day” on the job.

“Each day is different,” he said. “One day I’m in meetings all day, and another I’m out in the field performing safety observations. Other days I’m in the office reviewing budgets, approving payments and resolving personnel or customer issues.”

Rural perspective

Teten said most people aren’t aware of how much customer interaction occurs at the rural offices. Customers come in frequently. And he occasionally attends Chamber of Commerce and city council meetings as a representative of OPPD.

“Our customers and the communities we serve have come to expect a personal level of service,” Teten said. “It’s important we maintain these connections in order to keep customer satisfaction at an optimum level.”

Teten likens the people he works with as more like family than coworkers. He said a lot of them have worked together for 15 to 30 years. It’s a group that takes pride in being the best at what they do and exceeding customer expectations.

OPPD at Work_Kurt Teten_with Grayson
Teten with his grandson, Grayson.

“Everyone knows what the other person is thinking before they say it,” he said of the work environment. “People care about each other and look out for one another. It’s something special that I don’t think many workplaces can relate to.”

And just as special, Teten said, is the seriousness of the role OPPD plays in the community, whether or not customers realize it.

“Our work directly impacts reliability and customer satisfaction,” he said. “We are responsible for supplying customers with service and maintaining that service. After weather events, we are out there restoring everybody’s power. Our work puts us in the public eye every day and we always try to represent OPPD in a positive manner.”

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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.

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