Their role? To serve customers with safe, reliable natural gas Their role? To serve customers with safe, reliable natural gas

Their role? To serve customers with safe, reliable natural gas

As we recognize Natural Gas Utility Workers’ Day, meet three Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas employees who are helping customers


Joe Williams, a service mechanic in Cincinnati, Ohio, is approaching half a century of serving Duke Energy customers. He began as a mechanic in 1977, a position he accepted right out of high school.

It was entry-level, but Williams was excited about the opportunity to work at Cincinnati Gas & Electric (later Cinergy before becoming Duke Energy).

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Joe Williams holds a multi-gas leak detector, ideal for locating above and below-ground gas leaks, confined space monitoring, pipeline purging, leak surveys, and other applications.

A lot has changed in those 47 years. The early work trucks, for example, did not have automatic transmissions or air conditioning (a welcome change during hot summers, he said). He also remembers when mobile data terminals (MDTs), replaced paperwork; these little laptop computers in service trucks give technicians the ability to receive and complete work orders remotely.

One of the few things that hasn’t changed: Williams’ commitment to customer service. He delights in the daily interactions that some might find mundane.

“Meeting people and helping them navigate through service issues is so rewarding,” he said. “Just talking to them, having them share some of their life experiences, can help to ease their concerns.”

Williams is one of nearly 2,900 employees who deliver (or support the delivery of) safe, reliable and affordable natural gas to more than 1.7 million Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas customers in Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

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Williams never imagined he was in for a lifelong adventure at the company when he began as an entry-level mechanic in 1977.

Their work expanding and modernizing the natural gas delivery system will help meet the service needs of our customers and growing communities, while also providing the infrastructure needed to replace higher-carbon fuels.

We recognize their hard work and accomplishments on March 18, Natural Gas Utility Workers’ Day. The annual celebration spotlights natural gas workers’ role in providing nearly 189 million Americans with the energy they need to heat and cool their homes, cook food and more.

Take Williams, for example. Supervisor Ed Steiber said he’d be hard-pressed to come up with another employee who better represents the company.

“It matters to Joe what the customer thinks about Duke Energy,” Steiber said. “Equally important is any knowledge he can pass on to our junior employees, be it work or safety related. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”

Julian Small, a service technician at Piedmont Natural Gas, is proud to call Charlotte, N.C., home.

Molly Plyer and Julian Small of Piedmont Natural Gas have also been applauded for their efforts to go above and beyond to serve customers. At first, it seemed like any other day.

Small, a service technician in Charlotte, N.C., was at a customer’s home to turn on natural gas service. He and the customer were outside when they heard a scream. They went inside to find the customer’s wife and their grandson standing there with a glazed look.

“Their grandson wasn’t moving or speaking,” Small said. “They just kept calling and calling the grandson’s name with no response.”

The couple was at a loss at what to do. But Small has a cousin who has seizures and recognized the warning signs.  

Drawing on experience, Small moved closer, putting him in position to catch the young man as he began to fall. Once the grandson was on the floor, Small turned him on his side so that he was less likely to choke or bite his tongue while seizing.

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As a work coordinator at Piedmont Natural Gas in Charlotte, Molly Plyler works closely with service techs like Small.

Small called Plyer, his work coordinator in Charlotte, who contacted 911. The fire department got there first, checking the grandson’s vitals when EMTs arrived and transported him to the hospital.

“If you see somebody in need of help,” Small said, “and you can do something to help, why not help? I just look at it like it was just something that I would normally do in any other day.”

In her role as work coordinator, Plyer works closely with service techs like Small. And she often talks to fire personnel, standard procedure when a crew is dispatched to investigate a natural gas leak. But this was the first time in four years that Plyler called first responders for a customer emergency.

“I was relieved that Julian was there when it happened,” Plyler said. “I work with Julian every day and I know the type of person he is. I know how caring he is and that he would not hesitate to help.”

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Small is pictured in his work vehicle on the way to a service call in Charlotte.

Joe Steele, supervisor of natural gas customer field operations, recently applauded their quick thinking and handling of the situation.

“I’m proud to see them recognized like this,” said Steele, a sentiment echoed by Brian Weisker, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Duke Energy’s Natural Gas Business Unit.

“The actions of these teammates are representative of all of our natural gas teammates,” Weisker said. “They work long hours in sometimes less-than-ideal conditions to ensure customers have heat on a cold night, and they are active members of the communities where they live and work.”

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