Thursday, June 29, 2017

Scout’s honor for lifetime of leadership

Executive Vice President Joan Shafer’s career at We Energies had a humble start. She did clerical work for the company straight out of high school.

“It was so boring, I decided not to return the following summer!” recalls Shafer. Eventually she did return, and perhaps that mundane first assignment served as motivation to achieve more.

Now, Shafer is being honored for her lifetime of leadership by the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast. It is an organization she cares deeply about. Shafer was a Girl Scout herself and later became a troop leader for her daughters’ groups. She served on the organization’s board of directors for seven years, including four as its chair.

Joan Shafer, center, accepts her award.
Shafer’s career at We Energies has followed a similar trajectory. Shafer rose through the management ranks in human resources, operations and customer service before being promoted to her current role as executive vice president – human resources and organizational effectiveness of WEC Energy Group. She credits her Girl Scout experience with helping her develop the skills she uses today.

“Girl Scouts has been instrumental in my leadership and in my daughters’ lives,” Shafer said. “It taught me how to work in a group, know myself and my strengths, connect with others, and play a role in their development through empathy, compassion and empowerment.”

On June 29, Shafer was presented with a 2017 Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast Leadership Award. She and other award recipients were honored at an event commemorating 100 years of Girl Scouting in southeastern Wisconsin.

In the community, Shafer also is an advocate for education as a trustee for Mount Mary University and a member of the Alverno College School of Business advisory board. She is the vice chair of Partners Advancing Values in Education (PAVE) and the secretary of Seton Catholic Schools. She was previously presented with an Athena Award for outstanding leadership, and in in 2012, she was named an Outstanding Volunteer of the Year by the United Way of Waukesha County.

Shafer’s advice to Girl Scouts looking to be leaders in their communities: “The first rule is to show up and try it, put yourself in that environment, and dismiss the phrase ‘I can’t do that.’”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cookie Crumbs: Celebrate Summerfest with smiley-face cookies

We Energies Cookie Book recipes are perfect for celebrations of all kinds. No matter the occasion, you’ll find a recipe that’s just right.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Summerfest. Conceived by then-mayor Henry W. Maier and inspired by his visit to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, Summerfest has come a long way over the past five decades.

The same year that Bob Hope and Dolly Parton were headliners (1969), the We Energies Cookie Book included a recipe that featured smiley-face cookies, although they were called Funny Face Cookies. They are sure to put a smile on your face as you celebrate the first day of Summerfest.

Funny Face Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces sweet cooking chocolate, melted

Cream butter; beat in sugar, egg and extracts. Blend in sifted dry ingredients. Divide dough in half. Mix chocolate into half of dough. Chill. Roll each dough section 1/8 inch thick on floured surface. Cut with 2-inch round cutter.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Cut eyes and mouth out of each cookie. Replace with eyes and mouth cut out of contrasting cookie dough. Chill if dough becomes too soft. Bake at 350 degrees about 7 minutes. Makes about 7 dozen.

Need some baking inspiration? Our Cookie Book archive has recipes dating back to the 1930s. Find your new favorite today!

We Energies recipes

Monday, June 26, 2017

Would-be scammer snared by social media post

We’re always on the lookout for criminals trying to scam our customers. When we were alerted about this post on Facebook, we notified Milwaukee Police:

The police suspect this was a scam to illegally re-connect customers and shared it with the person’s parole officer. Now, state authorities tell us the ex-con has been arrested for violation of parole due to the alleged illegal activity implied in his post.

Disconnected customers should avoid such scams. Remember:
  • Hiring an unauthorized party to illegally reconnect electric service could cause damage and lead to safety hazards such as electrocution or fire. 
  • Paying money for illegal reconnection does not erase past-due balances; that money is better spent making payment arrangements with us for positive reporting to credit agencies.
Energy theft is dangerous, illegal and expensive. Ultimately, we all end up paying for energy theft because the company recovers those costs in every customer’s bill.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Answers to common questions about power outages

Reliable service is a hallmark of We Energies, but sometimes power outages happen. Here Dave Megna, vice president – Wisconsin system operations, and Duane Miller, manager – gas and electric distribution operations, answer five common questions about what you should do if one occurs.

Dave Megna, vice president -
Wisconsin system operations
What should I do if I have a power outage?
Dave: The first thing you want to do is call We Energies on the power outage hotline (800-662-4797) or report your outage online. Then give specifics about what you’re experiencing. Any information that you can provide – including anything you saw or heard – will help us better respond.

Do you know when my power is out, or do I need to call?
Dave: We do need you to contact us because the more reports we get, the better our system can pinpoint the damaged area or the outage that occurred. Making the phone call helps us restore power faster.

Should I assume that my neighbor is calling and I don’t need to contact you, or is it important for everybody in the neighborhood to call?
Dave: The more people that contact us, the better. Even if you think your neighbor will call, you should still report it. In fact, many people end up being out of power much longer because they figure somebody else took care of it.

Duane Miller, manager -
gas and electric distribution operations
What if my power isn’t out but I see something unusual, such as a flash or a downed wire, or I hear a boom?
Duane: It is very helpful for you to contact us because we can use that information. Quite often what you saw or heard may lead us to the cause of the incident and help us to restore other customers much more quickly, even if your power isn’t affected.

When should I call an electrician instead of We Energies?
Duane: You should call an electrician rather than We Energies if you have power in most of your home except one room or a very small section, or if there is a problem with the internal wiring in your home.
Dave: There are other cases when you might need both We Energies and the electrician. For instance, if a tree comes down and takes down your service mast – the pipe that runs up the side of your house that our wires connect to – you’ll need an electrician to put the mast back up and you’ll need We Energies to reinstall service.

Sometimes that can be a situation where you don’t know until We Energies comes out, but we may not be able to get there right away if it was a big storm. So if that wire is on the ground, report it so that we can get there, but then you’ll still need an electrician.

Even if you think your neighbor will call, you should still report outages 
or damage. What you saw or heard may help restore power more quickly.

Ready for s’more summer!

We Energies Cookie Book recipes are perfect for celebrations of all kinds. No matter the occasion, you’ll find a recipe that’s just right.

Summer is officially here! What better way to celebrate than with a classic summertime treat, s’mores? The original recipe for this all-American dessert was first published in 1927 as “Some Mores” by master campers, the Girl Scouts. 

But if you don’t find yourself sitting around a campfire as summer rolls in, try this kitchen-friendly twist on the fireside favorite. The 1991 We Energies Cookie Book featured the following recipe that includes graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, but uses some easy baking, an 8-inch-square pan and your oven’s broiler to bring the s’mores indoors.   


1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
½ cup butter or margarine
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

18 marshmallows cut into halves

Mix graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons melted butter in 8-inch square baking pan; press evenly in bottom of pan. Melt chocolate and  1/2 cup butter in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar and the eggs; mix in flour and salt. Spread batter over crust. Bake at 325 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Turn oven to broil. Place marshmallows, cut sides down, on cookies. Broil 6 inches from heat source until marshmallows are puffed and golden (watch carefully!). Cool on wire rack. Cut into 18 squares (2 marshmallows per square), cutting through marshmallows with scissors dipped in water. Makes 1 ½ dozen.

Need some baking inspiration? Our Cookie Book archive has recipes dating back to the 1930s. Go online and find your new favorite today!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Martin recognized as Woman of Influence by Milwaukee Business Journal

Many in the Milwaukee business community are familiar with Susan Martin’s legal background and her current roles as executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of WEC Energy Group. But Martin had a very different career previously – as an English professor.

Martin shared that history with the Milwaukee Business Journal as the publication interviewed her for its Women of Influence awards. She was recognized in the Corporate Executive category.

“I considered law school when I finished undergrad. But I chose to follow my first passion and pursue a Ph.D. in literature and language,” Martin said. “In many ways, the core work remains the same – reading and deciphering written texts, using language effectively to communicate and persuade.”
Susan Martin with Mark Kass of the Milwaukee Business Journal.
During her interview, Martin also discussed her role in the company’s acquisition of Integrys Energy Group and her key involvement in the Power the Future plan.

Martin and other Women of Influence award winners were recognized at a luncheon at the Wisconsin Center June 16. It was not her first honor from the Business Journal. In 2015, she was recognized as one of the publication’s Top Corporate Counsel award winners.

Martin is an active community member in Milwaukee, serving on the boards of the Milwaukee Public Museum, the United Community Center and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. She has been with the company since 2000.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Crews restored power to more than 100,000 customers this week

It has been a very busy week for We Energies crews after several rounds of severe weather. All told, our crews restored power to more than 100,000 customers in different parts of our service territory. 

It started Sunday, June 11, with severe weather in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That led to outages for more than 10,000 customers.

On Monday, June 12, severe storms hit Southeastern Wisconsin, impacting tens of thousands of additional customers. Hardest hit areas included Washington, Dodge and Fond du Lac counties.

Even more severe weather arrived Wednesday night, causing severe damage in our Fox Valley service territory. In nearby Green Bay, our sister company, Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), also saw immense damage in one of the worst storm events in the company’s history. WPS crews restored power to nearly 175,000 customers since last weekend.

We thank our crews for their tireless efforts, many of them working double shifts multiple days in a row in hot and humid weather. And we especially thank our customers for their patience throughout these events. Many of you have commented on our social media pages to thank our crews, and we really appreciate it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

We Energies peregrine falcon total tops 240

Eleven peregrine falcon chicks hatched at our power plants this spring, bringing the total number of peregrines produced at We Energies facilities to 244 since 1997. That accounts for nearly 20 percent of Wisconsin’s endangered peregrine falcon population. 

On June 11, we held our final falcon banding of the season at our Presque Isle Power Plant (PIPP) in Marquette, Michigan. Three chicks - Acadia, Bolt and Labo - were named by employees and their family members who attended the banding.

Greg Septon and employee Amanda Studinger hold Acadia, Labo and Bolt
Labo is named after longtime PIPP employee Greg LaBonte, whose nickname is Labo. LaBonte built and maintains the nest box at PIPP. 

Employee Greg LaBonte helped Septon band Labo, the bird named after him
Phoenix, an adult peregrine born at PIPP in 2011, also made a cameo at the banding. Phoenix was found badly injured in 2012. He lost an eye and would not be able to survive in the wild, so now he lives at the Chocolay Raptor Center where he serves as an educational ambassador.

Phoenix was born at PIPP in 2011

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cookie Crumbs: Crisscross your way to Peanut Butter Cookie Day

We Energies Cookie Book recipes are perfect for celebrations of all kinds. No matter the occasion, you’ll find a recipe that’s just right.

Dating back to the book’s beginning when the recipe for Peanut Butter Balls (which were still flattened before baking) was printed – and reprinted – in the early 1930s, peanut butter cookie ideas seem to be a staple of the holidays. That includes the no-flour, the no-bake, the no-peanut-butter-in-the-name and the extra-peanut-butter-in-the-recipe varieties.

It was the 2016 Cookie Book, though, that featured the Best Peanut Butter Cookies recipe, as submitted by Nheena Weyer Ittner from the U.P. Children’s Museum. Try it and see if you agree. Make a batch to share on June 12 – Peanut Butter Cookie Day – and don’t forget to add the crisscross pattern. It’s tradition!

Best Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup shortening
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In mixing bowl, cream shortening, peanut butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture; mix well.

Shape into 1-inch balls; place on greased cookie sheets. Flatten with fork in crisscross pattern.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on wire cooling racks. Makes about 4 dozen.

Need some baking inspiration? Our Cookie Book archive has recipes dating back to the 1930s. Go online and find your new favorite today!

We Energies recipes

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

19,000 days without a lost-time injury

The Iron Range Meter Service team, located in northeast Wisconsin and northern Michigan, reached two venerable milestones in the past week: 52 years without a lost-time injury as of June 1, and an even 19,000 days without a lost-time injury as of June 8.

In other words, the last time they experienced a lost-time injury, humans hadn’t even landed on the moon.

Of course, a lot has changed during that time.

“Conditions years ago were different,” says Rick Lapp, meter reader (north), who has been with We Energies for 32 years. “There were a couple winters where we were on snow shoes from Dec. 1 all the way to May. We don’t do that much anymore. Same with dogs. It seems I used to pet a dog every other minute; now, it’s hardly ever.”

Working in northeast Wisconsin and northern Michigan means 
safely accessing meters even in extreme weather conditions. 
“The manner in which we do our jobs has changed,” adds Jeanette Larison, meter reader (north), who has been with the company for 14 years. “A lot of rushing has been taken out. We can pay attention to risk quite a bit more, further reducing the potential for injury.”

Much of that is due to the drive-by system instituted during the past decade, allowing the meter readers to drive by locations and read the meters from their vehicles, instead of walking up to every meter to read them manually. But that still leaves a lot of driving time – as much as 300 miles a day, in addition to commuting to and from home – with potential hazards ranging from road conditions to wildlife such as deer, wolves, bears and moose.

“They’re like a 20-pound sandbag coming through your windshield,” is how Tony Westerberg, meter testing leader (north), describes the danger even wild turkeys pose.

“Not structured communication, but caring communication”

What hasn’t changed throughout each of the 19,000 days is the level of communication that takes place among the team.

“We communicate to each other things we find in the field that could be a hazard,” Larison says.

They talk about them in safety meetings and, perhaps more important, they make safety topics part of their routine conversations with coworkers, with the linemen and gas fitters they come into contact with, and even with employees from other utilities.

Meter staff in 2015 accepting 50th year without lost-time injury award.
“Having a good bunch of people to work with and that you can talk to really helps, and this always has been a good group to work with,” Lapp says.

Westerberg, who has been with We Energies for 26 years, also credits the company’s program for tracking actions or situations that could have resulted in injury, death or property damage, but for some reason didn’t – this time. “It documents working conditions for us to be aware of so that we’re safety-conscious in all directions,” he explains.

He agrees with Larison and Lapp that it’s the daily conversations that help keep each other safe, as well as the notations they make in their records. He gave the example of the record for one residence that noted, “Beware of raccoons.” During the next meter reading, which still needed to be done manually, the reader saw the notation and knew to look around the property’s out buildings, where he found the area where the raccoons seemed to frequent. He made sure not to aggravate them.

“We communicate all those subtle things, and that plays a critical part in our ongoing safety. It’s not a structured communication, but a caring communication,” Westerberg says, adding that going home healthy and with all parts intact – and making sure your coworkers can do the same – is what it’s all about.

Taking safety home

It’s not just going home that’s important, but being safe there, too. Westerberg describes that his attire when cutting grass in the summer consists of shorts and a tank top, as well as safety glasses and boots. “My neighbors may think I look odd, but it’s safety first,” he says.

Lapp also lives the safety mentality at home, teaching it to his children. His daughter works in landscaping, where cutting and moving 50-pound pavers is part of her day. “I told her to get safety-toed shoes, and to wear a mask and safety glasses when cutting the pavers,” he says. “Because you’re aware of safety issues, you try to make your kids aware of them, and that comes from working here.”

His safety tip? “As I tell my kids, just pay attention, period – whether it’s to the other driver or to conditions.”

Westerberg agrees, pointing to the importance of “aim-high driving.”

“Be aware of what is off in the distance. Look way up, beyond the car ahead of the car in front of you. If you see a deer crossing, chances are there is more than one. Watch your mirrors, too, for what’s coming up behind you. Some things are uncontrollable, but other things like aim-high driving help save potential situations from happening.

“Some people may say, ‘Yeah, but what didn’t get reported?’” Westerberg adds. “Believe what you like, but we’ve gone home safely every day so far. We’re proud of it, but just happy to go home safe.”

Lapp agrees. “Setting a record is good, but going through each day without a lost-time injury is how it should be.”

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Big league kick-off for Habitat’s build season

We Energies is again partnering with Habitat for Humanity to help the agency revitalize Milwaukee’s Washington Park neighborhood, just blocks from one of our service centers.

Sponsors were invited to help kick off the summer build season with the Milwaukee Brewers on June 6. Left fielder Ryan Braun and pitcher Matt Garza helped Milwaukee Habitat launch a week-long blitz build on behalf of the Brewers Community Foundation. The We Energies Foundation is part of the Brewers Community Foundation Leadership Council, contributing money to efforts like this.

We Energies employees pose with Ryan Braun and Matt Garza.
We Energies volunteers again will help at various work sites in the Washington Park neighborhood. We Energies Foundation dollars are being dedicated to Habitat’s critical repair program, which makes critical home repairs affordable for qualified homeowners in the Washington Park neighborhood. Our foundation also has sponsored the construction of two homes in the area in the past.

“I keep coming back because I love giving back to the community,” said Mekisha Linton, a We Energies employee who has volunteered on several Habitat builds. “I love expanding home ownership to new families and to the community. It means a lot to me.”

Employees have fun with the Brewers Racing Sausages.
This week’s blitz build kicks off a build season where Milwaukee Habitat will serve 35 families in need of safe, affordable housing through new construction, home rehab and critical home repair. The June 6 event took place on North 31st Street along a stretch where four new Habitat homes are being constructed.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Major milestone: Our peregrine falcon manager bands 1,000th chick

Our peregrine falcon manager, Greg Septon, reached a major milestone in his career as a biologist Friday. He banded his 1,000th peregrine falcon chick at our Port Washington Generating Station, capping off three decades of recovery work to rebuild Wisconsin’s endangered peregrine population.

Septon named the 1,000th chick "Buckshot," a tribute to his passion for hunting.
Septon retrieved three chicks from the power plant’s nest box early Friday morning, bringing them inside to apply their wildlife bands. A captive audience watched in awe, many of them associates of Septon who were invited as surprise guests. Septon’s wife and daughter also were on hand for the special event. 

Mike Grisar, We Energies principal environmental consultant, organized the event. He has worked closely with Septon for more than a decade. “Greg, I can’t tell you how honored we are to have you partner with us on this and really allow us to be the host for the work that you’ve done,” Grisar told Septon. 

Septon with his award, proclamation, and a cake adorned with a picture of "Atlanta."
Grisar then presented Septon with an award and proclamation, which stated, “We Energies is honoring the steadfast commitment and unyielding dedication of Greg Septon for his tireless efforts in leading the recovery of the peregrine falcon.” 

Septon and Mike Grisar hold Buckshot, Millennial Falcon and Oscar.
Septon shared a story to illustrate the importance of his banding efforts. He talked about “Atlanta,” a falcon born in 1996 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Several months later, she was found shot in Indiana. After extensive rehabilitation, she was released in Racine, Wisconsin. She then made stops in Indiana and Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, before finally settling at our Oak Creek Power Plant where she spent twelve years and produced 41 young. “We wouldn’t know any of that without her wildlife bands,” said Septon.

Today, thanks to Septon’s efforts, there are more than 30 known nest sites in Wisconsin. Last year, 103 young were produced at these sites. This year’s total is still being tallied. At We Energies facilities alone, 244 peregrines have been born under Septon’s watch.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story