VERTical Innovation Cluster has announced its inaugural board members. VERTical works with business and labor to solve challenges impeding the widescale deployment of nuclear and other advanced clean energy technologies. The founding board members include: Board Chair Ken Langdon, general manager for nuclear development at Energy Northwest (Washington). Langdon is a Navy veteran with experience in nuclear operations, site readiness and supply chain. Frederick P. Hughes, vice president of project direction, Mission Solutions Nuclear & Civil Group at Fluor Corporation (Idaho). Hughes has experience assembling and directing high-performance project teams and delivering projects within a set schedule and budget. Jeff Whitt, president of Framatome U.S. Government Solutions (Virginia). Whitt has experience in nuclear reactor fabrication, design and technical management, and expanding U.S. infrastructure and capabilities. VERTical was established in January 2022 and is administered by the Port of Benton.
Shane Hughes of Planet Turf was elected president of the Northwest Turfgrass Association (NTA) by its board of directors. He spent the past year as the vice president of NTA. Hughes earned turfgrass management degrees at Walla Walla Community College and Washington State University, then returned to the Tri-Cities as the assistant superintendent at Canyon Lakes, where he worked for four years. He was the superintendent at Zintel Creek Golf Club for six years and joined Planet Turf as the regional sales representative for southeastern Washington, eastern Oregon and southern Idaho in 2022. Hughes has been a recipient of the GCSAA Melrose Leadership Academy, the president of the Pacific Northwest branch of the Professional Grounds Management Society and a member of the Board of Directors of the Inland Empire Golf Course Superintendents Association.
Kennewick Kiwanis Club has installed new officers for 2023-24. Lt. Gov. Don Gibbard of Walla Walla was the installation officer. They are: Amy Mueller Coffman, president; Michelle DeGooyer, president elect; Penny Gardner, vice president; Maureen Bell, secretary; Chris Ingersoll, treasurer; and Tom Moak, past president. The directors are Gerry Berges, Tyler Pearson, Russ Burtner, Josh Hanson, Rick Corson, Gloria Seeley, Chuck DeGooyer and Audrey Manley.
Five new board members have been elected to the Visit Tri-CitiesBoard of Directors: Angie Brotherton of Bechtel National, Jennifer Cunnington of Q Home Loans, Mike Hall of Ice Harbor Brewing Company, David McClain of TC Black and Gus Sako of The Octopus’ Garden. The board helps to progress the organization’s mission, vision and values, and assists in long-term planning and short-term strategies designed to increase tourism spending for the region. Each board member was identified by the Visit Tri-Cities’ nominating committee and will serve a three-year term.
Soroptimist International of Three Rivers donated more than 60 diaper boxes valued at $3,000 to four local organizations that support Mid-Columbia women in need.
More than 480 employees at Gesa Credit Union dedicated more than 2,400 hours across the state to volunteer work on Oct. 9. For its second annual Day of Service, Gesa closed its 28 branches to allow team members to spend the day volunteering. More than 30 organizations across the state benefited from this volunteer work, including Second Harvest, Service Peace Warriors, Benton Franklin Humane Society, Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties, Grace Kitchen, Richland Parks & Recreation, Financial Reality Fair hosted at New Horizons High School, Kennewick Demonstration Garden and Safe Harbor’s My Friends Place.
Benton Franklin Fair donated $12,550 to cancer prevention efforts as part of its Tough Enough to Wear Pink program. The funds will be shared among the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation, the Prosser Memorial Hospital Foundation and Grace Clinic to be used for a variety of prevention and treatment programs. Each year, fair and rodeo attendees are asked to wear pink on Thursday during the fair, and fundraisers are held during the off season. The fair has donated more than $212,000 over the past 15 years to help uninsured community members in the fight against breast cancer. As a result, more than 2,000 people have received free mammograms, cancer screenings, follow-up care and other forms of assistance. Wrangler, Trios Health, Lourdes Health, the Tri-Cities Cancer Foundation, Prosser Memorial Hospital, Rabo AgriFinance and Washington Trust Bank are sponsors of the program.
Washington State University Tri-Cities has received a $150,000 donation from Bechtel National Inc. for its tutoring center and Learning Assistants program, along with $10,000 in scholarships to assist students pursuing a technical degree. The Learning Assistants program is an initiative first piloted by the WSU system in fall 2021 and involves hiring students to act as embedded learning assistants. The assistants attend the class, hold office hours for peer tutoring and take a leadership course to provide teaching skills. The donation secures naming rights for the tutoring center — which is in the Consolidated Information Center on the Richland campus — for five years.
In celebration of International Credit Union Day, Columbia Industries hosted a hygiene drive with support from Gesa Credit Union, HAPO Community Credit Union, Numerica Credit Union, STCU and Tri-CU. Two hundred women’s and 200 men’s hygiene kits and 200 winter preparedness kits were assembled, along with the donation of new men’s and women’s coats. The beneficiaries of the kits, each filled with essentials such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, deodorant, feminine products, socks, hats and hand warmers, are individuals with disabilities and life barriers who seek assistance from CI. Each credit union also donated $2,000 to CI, totaling $10,000.
Benton REA, with a $5,000 matching grant from the CoBank Sharing Success program, donated $10,000 to three food banks in the area to help feed local families. Tri-Cities Food Bank received $6,000, Jubilee Ministries’ Food Bank received $2,000, and Sunrise Outreach Food Pantries received $2,000.
The 2023 Hearts Are Wild Gala, supporting Junior Achievement’s programs in Southeastern Washington, raised $30,000. JA students in local schools will benefit from these funds. JA plans to host a bowling classic event in April.
The American Association of Port Authorities has certified the Port of Benton’s General Counsel David Billetdeaux as a port professional manager. Billetdeaux completed this education program in under three years and wrote a capstone paper examining international cluster models and their opportunities for ports. He graduated cum laude from Seattle University School of Law and was a partner at the Cowan Moore Billetdeaux Law Firm, practicing municipal law, estate planning and family law, from 2012-17. Billetdeaux has worked as general counsel for the port since 2017, a role in which he liaises with outside counsel, works on litigation matters, and researches and develops policies to modernize and develop the port. He also serves as the president of the Benton Franklin County Bar Association, the chair of the Columbia Basin College Foundation and was named a Young Professional in 2021.
Washington State University Tri-Cities Professor Bin Yang is one of the newest Fellows of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the highest level of membership in AIChE, a professional society of over 60,000 scientists in 110 countries. Yang has been involved in the society for the past 20 years, including working as a volunteer leader, organizing topical sessions and serving as a session chair. He is one of three WSU scientists to be named Fellows; Yong Wang and Richard Zollars previously received this honor. Yang works to understand and develop advanced biofuels and bioproducts from plant biomass while helping to train the next generation of scientists. He is a member of the university’s Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory and Department of Biological Systems Engineering and was a 2019 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Energy and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources.
Sara Matzen is the new human resources director for the city of Pasco. Matzen previously worked at Grant PUD, where she was responsible for employee and labor relations, compensation for more than 800 employees, and implemented a successful HR business partner model. She holds an MBA and is working to become a certified labor relations professional through the National Public Employers Labor Relations Association. She is also an incoming board member for the Washington state chapter of PELRA.
Columbia Industries has hired Laurie Rivera as its new marketing and communications manager. She has nearly a decade of experience in marketing and design, including website development, search engine optimization, social media and paid advertising. She previously worked at Spotted Fox Digital, where she oversaw various creative projects and clients, and with the nonprofit Catholic Charities as the communications coordinator for the PREPARES program, where she helped create and standardize program materials, facilitated group offerings for clients and assisted in managing and training volunteers. Rivera serves as the District 3 secretary of Soroptimist International of Northwestern Region and held the position of president for Soroptimist International of Pasco-Kennewick in 2020-21.
Caitlyn Uhnak has joined Lourdes Family Medicine as a family medicine provider. Previously, Uhnak worked at Lourdes Urgent Care on Road 68. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Boise State University in 2012 and her Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner degree from Washington State University in 2018.
Jesse Rice is the new director of the city of Pasco’s newly rebranded Parks & Recreation Department. He served in the city’s technology department for more than 25 years, including working as the information technology director. In April 2023, he became interim director of the Administrative & Community Services Department, which has been renamed the Parks & Recreation Department to more accurately reflect the department’s key functions. The department encompasses park management, recreational programming, facilities management, the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter and several downtown Pasco initiatives, such as the Pasco Specialty Kitchen and the farmers market.
Prosser Memorial Health has hired Ashley Kristofzski as a certified nurse midwife at the Prosser Women’s Health Center. Kristofzski received her bachelor’s degree in human development from the University of California and her Master of Science in Nursing from Pacific Lutheran University and Frontier Nursing University. She also holds several certifications, including basic life support, inpatient obstetrics and advanced fetal monitoring. Kristofzski has worked for PMH as a labor and delivery nurse for a few years. In her new role, she will provide care that covers the lifespan of women, with a special focus on pregnancy and birthing care.
Melony Sandoval is Tri-Cities Chaplaincy’s new Hospice House supervisor. She will coordinate patient care in Chaplaincy’s 10-bed facility in Kennewick with patients and their families, providers, nurses, social workers and volunteers.
Tri-Cities Chaplaincy has hired Jean McTigue as the infection prevention and clinical education nurse. McTigue’s industry experience is rooted in the Tri-Cities. In her new role, she will support the educational needs of the hospice team and navigate and simplify complex infection prevention standards.
Astria Health has hired Dr. Amer Khouri, a board-certified hematologist/oncologist to its Prosser health center and the Sunnyside hospital cancer center. He has more than 33 years of experience as a hematologist/oncologist and is relocating from Kennewick. He studied at Jordan University of Science and Technology and completed residencies in internal medicine at Jordan University Hospital, State University of New York and Morristown Memorial Hospital. Dr. Khouri, bilingual in English and Spanish, also has completed an oncology/hematology fellowship at Lan
STCU has promoted two longtime employees to positions of senior leadership. Brian Scott was promoted to chief risk officer after four years as STCU’s vice president of accounting and finance. He joined STCU in 2003, where he worked in consumer loan origination and underwriting before moving to the accounting department. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Washington State University and a Master of Business Administration from Western Governor’s University. Scott was able to cover costs for the MBA through STCU’s tuition reimbursement program. In his new role, Scott will oversee consumer and commercial underwriting, lending operations, loss mitigation and risk management.Angela Swenseid was promoted to senior vice president of finance and accounting. She worked in various roles in the finance and accounting department from 2010-19, when she was promoted to director of finance. She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Eastern Washington University and recently received her MBA from Washington State University, also through STCU’s tuition reimbursement program.
Reg Wainwright is the new plant general manager at Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station. Wainwright has worked for Energy Northwest for more than 15 years, starting in reactor and major maintenance and work control, and working his way up to maintenance director. He earned his bachelor’s degree in marine engineering from Massachusetts Maritime Academy and his MBA from Washington State University. He also holds a senior reactor operator certification. In his new role, Wainwright will oversee the operation of the generating station, including oversight of maintenance, operations, chemistry and radiation protection, and planning, scheduling and outage.
AWARDS & HONORS
Vanessa Walsh, a Ben Franklin Transit coach operator, recently received the Above and Beyond Award from the state Transit Insurance Pool. She was recognized for performing CPR on a woman who had collapsed at the BFT Three Rivers Transit Center in Kennewick.
U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref was selected by Washington Women Lawyers as the 2023 recipient of the Justice Mary Fairhurst Passing the Torch Award. This award honors an attorney who mentors women lawyers, makes an impact and supports the organization’s mission of fully and equally including women in the legal profession. Waldref is the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Washington and also mentors students and lawyers as an adjunct professor at the Gonzaga University School of Law. She also opened a new branch office in the Tri-Cities.
Laura Sanchez, director of student services at Washington State University Tri-Cities, was selected as the Latina Educator of the Year (higher education) at the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber’s annual awards gala. The award recognized Sanchez for her intentional, passionate and inclusive leadership. In her two years at WSU Tri-Cities, Sanchez has helped develop strong relationships both between offices and with off-campus organizations. She played a key role in helping WSU Tri-Cities apply for the Seal of Excelencia, a national designation demonstrating that the university uses research and best practices to serve its Hispanic and Latina student population. Sanchez is a part of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Committee, the extended cabinet, provides support for the MOSAIC Center for Student Inclusion, Career Center and the Counseling Wellness office, leads the Cougar Cupboard program and heads the Student Care Network Team.
Washington River Protection Solutions was honored by the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues & Employment for exemplary work in recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing workers with disabilities. WRPS won the Large Public (Federal) Employer of the Year Award. About 10% of WRPS employees self-identify as having a disability. The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce also recently recognized WRPS for hiring military veterans, who currently make up about 14% of the company’s workforce.
The Society of Environmental Journalists has released its 22nd annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment. In the category of Outstanding Explanatory Reporting, Courtney Flatt of Kennewick received second honorable mention for her story “Mysteries of the Deep” for Northwest News Network. Flatt spent two weeks on a NOAA research vessel, where scientists were collecting samples along the Northern California Current ecosystem. The judges’ comments note that “she told compelling narratives about how sea creatures from whales to tiny phytoplankton can inform climate change.”
Richland Fire and Emergency Services recognized Kadlec Regional Medical Center as a Heart Safe Campus. A Heart Safe Campus goes above and beyond in its efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of all who enter. At Kadlec, clinical staff are medically trained and 90% of the non-clinical staff on the main campus have been trained in hands-only CPR.
Four members of the Washington State University Tri-Cities programming club Coding Cougs won first place at DubHacks, a collegiate hackathon event at the University of Washington campus. The team, “RealmDialer,” consisted of computer science students Christian Penick, James Thomas Brittain, Dietrich Zacher and Danyil Kovalchuk, who competed against 741 individuals and 177 projects over the course of the two-day event. The teams had 28 hours to brainstorm and program a project of their choosing under the categories of disruption, synergy, vitality and T-Mobile. “RealmDialer,” working in the T-Mobile track, created an in-game item for Minecraft that allows players to make phone calls from within the game. The team hopes to further the project by developing a way to accept calls, create a currency to fund calls and connect through in-game video calls. Twenty-nine students from WSU Tri-Cities competed at the event.
The U.S. Department of Energy recognized the Office of River Protection at the Hanford site with a High Performance Sustainable Building Award for its new workshop, completed last year. The 27,000-square-foot Muli-Craft Maintenance Facility replaces multiple smaller facilities and improves efficiency by incorporating craft spaces under one roof. As many as 100 people, including electricians, carpenters, tool crib attendants, painters and insulators, pipefitters and millwrights, and instrument technicians could be working in the facility throughout any given day. The building features repurposed excess equipment from contractor Hanford Mission Integration Solutions and has taken other environmental considerations into account.
Pasco School District’s Board of Directors received the 2023 Board of Distinction Award for the seventh year from the Washington State School Directors’ Association. This award recognizes the board’s high standards of leadership in education, commitment to the success and well-being of students, and efforts to foster a culture of excellence. The award will be presented at the state directors’ Nov. 16 conference in Spokane. The school board includes Amy Phillips, president; Amanda Brown, vice president; John Kennedy; Rosa Torres; and Vincent Guerrero.
Washington State University Tri-Cities researchers have won a 2023 EPA Green Chemistry Challenge Award for a technology that converts terpenes, a waste product released during wood products manufacturing, into valuable chemicals. Joshua Heyne, director of the Washington State University Tri-Cities Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory and co-director of the WSU-Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Bioproducts Institute, and his colleague Harrison (Zhibin) Yang are co-recipients of the award, along with Kim Tutin, founder and chief executive officer of Captis Aire LLC.
HAPO Community Credit Union has received a Juntos Avanzamos designation for its commitment to serving all members of the community, promoting financial literacy, expanding access to credit and improving opportunities for every individual. The designation also represents HAPO’s dedication to bridging financial gaps and barriers through inclusive financial solutions. HAPO’s more than 120 certified financial coaches play a particularly essential role in delivering the tools and support needed to foster financial independence. HAPO said the designation allows it to further enhance outreach efforts and tailor products and services to better serve the Hispanic and immigrant communities, as well as others living in underserved areas.
The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) recognized Richland School District’s landscape services team with an honor award for exceptional grounds maintenance. The award was given in the School Grounds (K-12, Technical School, Community Colleges) category of the PGMS 2023 Green Star Awards competition. The awards celebrate grounds staff who meet the highest standards in landscape management and practices. The district previously received a Green Star Honor Award in 2021 for the maintenance of Fran Rish Stadium’s field. The district’s 16-member team, led by Landscape Services Manager Chris Hall, maintains the grounds and fields at 20 schools and several support facilities. Nine of the members are certified grounds technicians, a national certification through PGMS.
Visit Tri-Cities recognized two companies with awards during its 54th annual meeting. The 2023 Kris Watkins Tourism Champion of the Year award, sponsored by Washington River Protection Solutions, went to the Tri-Cities Airport for its service to the Tri-Cities through renovations, collaborations and the promotion of local arts and sports. The airport has returned to pre-Covid passenger numbers, attracting American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and a second airport hotel. Over the next 10-15 years, $110 million will be invested in future terminal projects.The 2023 Excellence in Service award, sponsored by Battelle, was presented to Oatis Outdoor Adventure Rentals for providing exemplary customer service and creating a memorable visitor experience. Owners Tommie and Ester Oatis received a $500 gift card. The business was one of 239 nominees recognized by the community for exceptional hospitality.
Enterprise Middle School Psychologist Alexis Romero was recognized by the Washington State Association of School Psychologists as the 2023 recipient of the first ever Best Practices Award for Early Career Professional Practices. It is given to a professional in their first three years of practice; this is Romero’s first year as a school psychologist. She was nominated by 12 team members at Enterprise for her “what’s best for students” mentality, ability to prioritize equitable access for all and advocacy for students and families.
The Port of Kennewick and its partners in the Clover Island restoration and revitalization project are among the winners of this year’s Governor’s Smart Communities Awards, administered by the state Department of Commerce.
The awards recognize local governments for planning efforts that enrich their communities in the areas of job growth, economic development, housing affordability, homelessness, parks and recreation, transportation and subarea development.