BROKEN BOW—Longtime Custer Public Power District (CPPD) employee Jerry Spanel has recently been named the 2020 recipient of the Jack McEnerney Award for his efforts in promoting safety. The award is presented by the Nebraska Rural Electric Association (NREA) Job Training and Safety Committee to someone who goes above and beyond in the areas of safety, public service, and leadership.
Employees of the NREA’s 34 rural electric systems are eligible for the Jack McEnerney Award and traveling plaque, which has been awarded since 1983 in honor of Jack McEnerney who worked as a manager for Cornhusker Public Power District and was an avid proponent of employee safety.
NREA Job Training & Safety Coordinator Larry Oetken presented the award to Jerry Spanel at the CPPD offices in Broken Bow on Tuesday, September 15. NREA CEO Dennis Houston and Job Training and Safety Instructor Kory Hildebrand were also in attendance. The Jack McEnerney Award is one of the highest honors a Nebraska lineman can receive and is usually presented during the annual Job Training and Safety conference but due to COVID-19, the in-person conference was canceled.
Jerry Spanel began his career with CPPD in March of 1975 and has worked as a lineman on the construction crew, a substation tech, a foreman technician, and as Operations Manager since 2019. CPPD General Manager Rick Nelson nominated Spanel for his efforts in promoting safety among employees through the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) control system, high voltage demonstrations, the Commitment to Zero Contacts Campaign, and many other safety and continuing education programs.
Spanel has been active in the Broken Bow community supporting area youth by serving as a 4-H volunteer, t-ball coach, sponsor on numerous youth trips with St. Joseph Catholic Church, and holding leadership roles with the Elks Lodge, Knights of Columbus, and the Columbian Squires.
“It’s been kind of a long road the last 45 years and [I’ve] enjoyed working here at Custer very much and I just want to thank everybody again for the support that they’ve given me through the years,” Spanel said on Tuesday afternoon upon receiving the award.
Jerry and his wife Ginger have three daughters—Tammi Campbell, Brandi Oeltjen, and Annie Ridder—10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. The couple was honored with their family’s presence on Tuesday afternoon along with several grandkids, community members, and CPPD employees.
Many of Jerry’s grandkids were wearing “Spanel Strong” t-shirts on Tuesday in support of his ongoing fight with melanoma. Spanel was diagnosed in March and has been undergoing chemo therapy. After 45 years at CPPD, Jerry is scheduled to retire within the next few months. His daughter Tammi Campbell said her father is definitely “Spanel Strong!”
Two other Custer Public Power District employees have received the Jack McEnerney Award including Tom Knott in 2019 and Don Slingsby in 2008.
Larry Oetken said Jerry Spanel is the epitome of the criteria for the award which he outlined as the following: respect of fellow employees, ability to inspire subordinates, confidence of supervisors, technical understanding, a leader, consistent safety consciousness, sets an example and encourages safety, ability and willingness to teach others, takes part in community affairs, participation in statewide groups and associations, creates good image for employer, fosters good public relations, strives for self-improvement, develops abilities of coworkers by delegating responsibilities and authority, knows policies and procedures of employer, displays high degree of professionalism and competency.