Craig Station management switches hands | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig Station management switches hands

Janelle O'Dea

Rick Johnson, left, retires on Dec. 4 and Rich Thompson will take over as Craig Station manager on Dec. 1.

Although Craig Station's operations and production will remain ever the same, management is changing in early December.

Current plant manager Rick Johnson will officially retire Dec. 4, and Rich Thompson will take over the job Dec. 1.

Johnson said the two have been "tag-teaming" the job for the past couple of months and working to get Thompson up to speed on plant manager duties.

Thompson is excited to begin the job that he said he's worked for his entire career.

"Career-wise, it's an excellent opportunity all around," Thompson said.

Johnson will retire to Wisconsin with his wife after working in the power industry for 34 years. He spent six of those years as Craig Station's plant manager.

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After graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a degree in civil engineering, Johnson came to Colorado to work as a cost and schedule engineer for Colorado-Ute Electric Association.

He said the company was working on building a new power plant in Southwest Colorado at the time, but the project wasn't completed because Exonn (now Exonn Mobile) discontinued its activity in the Rifle oil shale.

He began working at Craig Station shortly after. During his tenure, Johnson worked in several different management positions before taking over as manager.

Thompson graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from North Dakota State University and landed a job with the Babcock & Wilcox Company. He worked for the company for eight years and then worked for Colorado-Ute as well, before starting at Craig Station.

Thompson has also held several managerial positions with Craig Station and is moving up from the maintenance superintendent position to become plant manager.

Matt Koly will take over as maintenance superintendent.

The incoming plant manager said scope of supervision is the main difference between his old job and the new one.

"With the maintenance superintendent position, it's a defined group of people that you're supervising," Thompson said. "And when you're the plant manager, you have responsibility for the whole site."

Thompson is most excited to tackle some of the challenges Craig Station is facing as an older plant. Some components of the plant are reaching the end of their life.

For example, Unit Two is in the process of receiving a new selective catalytic reduction, which helps reduce nox, a product of combustion.

Thompson said the update will bring additional workers to Craig over the next couple of years, and will be finished in 2017.

Johnson gave Craig Station six months notice of his retirement and then the selection process for the new plant manager began. Thompson applied for the job and was announced the new plant manager Oct. 1.

Johnson said he and his wife sold their home in Craig and are currently living in an apartment. They will leave Craig on Dec. 4 to move to Wisconsin for retirement. It's the people of Craig that Johnson will miss most.

"I will miss working with the great staff out here at Craig Station and Tri-State," Johnson said. "And the folks on various boards I've worked with here in Moffat County. I really believe Craig, Colorado, is a great place to live and work."

He said he will spend his retirement golfing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and generally enjoying Wisconsin's outdoors with his wife.

The outgoing manager said he's very comfortable passing the job to Thompson.

"His experience and background makes him an excellent choice for the next plant manager here," Johnson said.

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday