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Northeast Director Earns National Honor for Safety

Northeast Director Earns National Honor for Safety

NORFOLK, Neb. – A Northeast Community College job training & safety director has been honored with the highest award given by Quad State Instructors.

Larry Oetken was presented with the Leroy M. Vanderpool Recognition Award at the Quad State Instructors summer conference from June 10-14 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Formed in 1964 by electric utility safety people from four states, Quad State Instructors now include members from across the United States.

“I am truly honored and humbled to accept this award, especially because it comes from my colleagues,” Oetken said.

The Nebraska Rural Electric Association (NREA) reported on the award and conference in its June newsletter. It noted that Leroy Vanderpool, whom the honor was named after, was a pioneer in safety at the co-op level. 

“His contributions to Quad State Instructors and its efforts to improve electrical utility workers’ safety inspired the creation of the award. Nominees are evaluated on several criteria including leadership, professionalism, self-improvement, and setting a good example for safety,” the NREA reported.

Oetken receives a traveling plaque featuring past winners, an individual plaque, and a donation of $500 to a charity of his choice.
“Safety is not just a priority for me; it's a core value that drives everything I do. This recognition is a testament to the dedication and commitment of all members of the NREA, and the Job Training and Safety team,” Oetken said. “The award is a reminder that our journey toward safety excellence is ongoing. Let’s continue to work together, watch out for one another, and strive to make our workplace even safer.” 

Besides belonging and contributing to Quad State Instructors, Oetken with a couple of others started a Quad State Instructors Lineworker Safety, Training, and Leadership Conference. The inaugural event was in April 2023 in Omaha, with another one in Omaha earlier this year.

Oetken has presented at industry conferences at the national level, including one earlier this year in Kansas City.

“It’s an honor to have been in this industry for the last 45 years of my life. I wouldn’t change careers for anything in this world,” he said.

Quad State Instructors is a collaborative group of electric utility safety professionals. The organization holds two conferences per year where attendees can exchange information and solutions, upgrade skills and collaborate on training programs and best practices.

Oetken with family
Larry Oetken, Northeast Community College job training & safety instructor, received the Quad State Instructors’ Leroy M. Vanderpool Recognition Award during its summer conference earlier this month in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is shown with (from left) son Jordan of Minneapolis; (Larry), wife Barb, and daughter Ashley of Omaha. (Courtesy photo)