Utica Resident Named 2004 Woman Leader
Connie M. Cullen
November 9, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WHITE PLAINS—The New York
Power Authority (NYPA) has selected Kateri Sparks, manager, system
operations, in NYPA’s Transmission Business Unit, as the Power
Authority’s Woman Leader of the Year for 2004.
Ms. Sparks is one of the over 80 women to be honored
by their employers at the 31 st annual Salute to Women Leaders Luncheon
sponsored by the Academy of Women Leaders of the YWCA-NYC at the New
York Marriott Marquis in Manhattan on Tuesday (Nov. 9). The award
recognizes women who have demonstrated leadership and served as positive
examples in the workplace.
“Ms. Sparks’ exceptional leadership during the
August 2003 blackout is seen everyday in the excellence and commitment
she brings to managing NYPA’s System Operations. Her contribution to
the reliable transmission of electricity across New York State means
NYPA can help continue ‘to keep the lights on,’ ” said Eugene W.
Zeltmann, president and chief executive officer, NYPA.
A resident of Utica , Ms. Sparks is based in the
Energy Control Center (ECC) at NYPA’s Frederick R. Clark Energy Center
in Marcy. She was selected for the award from among Power Authority
staff at projects and offices throughout New York State .
In 1982, Ms. Sparks was the first woman hired at the
ECC as a power dispatcher. In less than 10 years, she advanced to the
highest control room operator level—senior system operator—at the ECC.
With the advent of deregulation and the New York Independent System
Operator (NYISO), Ms. Sparks was chosen to fill the new ECC Information
Coordinator position, serving as liaison among NYPA marketers in Energy
Resource Management, other NYPA project sites, the NYISO and the ECC.
Within a year, she was promoted to senior information coordinator.
Toward the end of 2002, Ms. Sparks applied for the
vacant manager, system operations position in a process that included
writing a position paper on the future of the ECC and competing with
several other highly qualified candidates. Against this stiff
competition, she secured the job, achieving a top leadership role in a
move seldom made by women in the electric utility industry.
“I see the Power Authority taking the idea of
diversity in the workforce very seriously. There are career
opportunities here for women if they choose to take advantage of them,”
Ms. Sparks said. “It’s hard to isolate your own performance, because
we really are such a team, but this award says something about the Power
Authority, too. It validates their support for diversity to put me in
a position of leadership. I was fortunate to have two managers, Gerry
LaRose and Walt Jandke, who presented opportunities, recognized my
abilities and challenged me to grow. Their support, and that from
upper management, further exemplifies NYPA’s support for women in the
Ms. Sparks was selected for this award for her
professionalism in overseeing the operation of NYPA’s bulk power system,
particularly during the August 14, 2003 blackout, when electrical
service was knocked out to nearly 90 per cent of New York State and also
darkened significant parts of the northeastern United States . Under
Ms. Sparks’ management—having all the right people in place with the
support they needed—the ECC provided valuable assistance in restoring
the upstate transmission system, and maintaining power in the western
part of the state. In addition to her professional achievements and
her personal accomplishments as a working mom, Ms. Sparks provides a
passionate advocacy for women at NYPA and in the workplace, in general.
Ms. Sparks received a two-year associate degree in
electrical technology from Mohawk Valley Community College at the age of
32 while raising her two children. She has completed several courses
in management, generation and relaying at NYPA. Ms. Sparks also
attended classes at the Western Area Power Administration in Denver , CO
, where she completed Dispatching Essentials, Hydro Generating Dispatch,
and Transmission Operation, all of which have strengthened her
Ms. Sparks has two sons and daughters-in-law,
Michael and Melissa Copperwheat, and Marcus and Jennifer Copperwheat.
She also has six grandchildren, Julia, Nathan, Michael, Jared, Abbey and
Logan Copperwheat, ranging in ages from 10 months to 9 ˝ years. Both
of her sons are business professionals. Michael is operations manager
at the Wal* Mart Distribution Center , in Marcy. Marcus is director of
technical services, for Lloyds Manufacturing, Warren , RI . They say
they owe much of their personal and professional success to watching her
example of achievement, particularly her dedication to succeed in a