Don Wengerter: Get it Done

Sept. 15, 2010
When Don Wengerter shares his knowledge of the utility industry, he keeps things at a get-it-done level and shows the “how” of things.

When Don Wengerter shares his knowledge of the utility industry, he keeps things at a get-it-done level and shows the “how” of things. As a practicing engineer who has worked for several companies, he has seen multiple ways to accomplish the same task. “All have their benefits,” Wengerter said. “I use that to explain the pros and cons of any ideas.”

As a senior engineer at Wisconsin Public Service, Wengerter leaves the theory to the academics and stresses practicality to his students.

Wengerter will be sharing WPS’ experience with Substation Oil Containment at the Finepoint Circuit Breaker Test and Maintenance Training Conference on Oct. 6. WPS is an electric and gas utility located in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The company serves more than 437,000 electric customers and 317,000 natural gas customers in Northeast and Central Wisconsin and an adjacent portion of Upper Michigan. WPS is a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group.

“As the industry has changed and regulations evolved, oil containment has become an important issue for reliability, regulatory and public image,” Wengerter said. “How much is it worth to not have your company on the news for an oil spill? It may only be a small amount, but the average layman doesn’t relate well to quantities. One gallon of oil can contaminate a million gallons of water.”

Wengerter tells students to listen and learn. The goal is not to design it, he said, but to be able to operate it safely. “Listen to the field troops; they can teach engineers a lot.”

Wengerter learned his lessons from being employed in the electric utility industry for 28 years. He is a registered professional engineer in three states. He got started in the power industry when ComEd made him the best offer of any prospective employers after he earned his BSEE at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was the time of nuclear expansion in the 1980s, and utilities offered good job security with plenty of opportunities for learning and advancement, he said. “Plus you could make a career change without leaving the company.” He had four distinctly different jobs in his 19 years at ComEd.

He said one of the best things about being a senior engineer now is being able to pass on his knowledge to others the way it was passed on to him. And utilities continue to offer those same opportunities he looked for in the 1980s: learning and challenges. “With all the changes in the utility industry, we are being challenged to find new ways to make assets last longer without service impacts.”

Besides engineering, Wengerter said he has three passions: golf, reading and wrestling. He loves to walk a course, play the game and unwind. “Sometimes the best way to play is the first or last thing in the day by yourself.”

Reading is a family pastime. He enjoys the works of Steven Ambrose, Larry Niven and David Eddings.

“Lastly, I’m a ‘wrestling nut,’ following high school and college wrestling, sometimes to my family’s cries of ‘get a life.’”

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