Lifetime Achievement Award — Tim Cotter: Strive To Be Like Him

NETA World StaffNETA News, Summer 2024 NETA News

Congratulations Tim Cotter on receiving the NETA Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Ron Widup, on behalf of the NETA Board of Directors.

“When you think about lifetime achievement, it’s a big loss to NETA to have someone like Tim Cotter no longer involved in the day-to-day stuff. We’re going to miss that,” said NETA Board Member Ron Widup, Senior Advisor of Technical Services at Shermco Industries, as he presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Cotter at NETA’s recent PowerTest event. “One of those people is Tim Cotter, who retired in 2023. By giving this Lifetime Achievement Award to Tim, the message we want the people in this room to hear is, ‘Continue to feed the beast.’”

“NETA has a long-standing reputation for quality, technical accuracy, and advancement of the electrical power testing and maintenance community,” Widup continued. “These attributes can be directly pointed to the many hours and personal dedication of the Association’s volunteers and contributors, not least of which is Tim Cotter. Tim’s technical prowess, attention to detail, and insistence on quality have greatly benefitted the Association and the industry. He is the type of person we need, and we will miss his contributions greatly.”

Cotter’s writing skills — from technical standards to exam questions to entertaining and educating readers in NETA World — earned him a reputation for being tough, smart, creative, and indispensable to NETA’s advancement in the power testing community over the last several decades.

“When I heard I was receiving the award, I immediately thought of Rod Hageman and Al Peterson, who received it last year,” Cotter says. “I felt honored to be considered in their company. I also thought of some other great people who I can safely predict will receive it at some time in the future, and I feel the same about being counted with them.”

Tim’s commitment to ongoing learning and improvement drives his success,” says NETA 1st Vice President Dan Hook, VP of Engineering Services and Solutions, CBS Field Services. “He actively seeks opportunities to expand his knowledge and skills, staying abreast of industry developments and best practices to continually enhance his effectiveness and contribution.”

An electrical power systems engineer with 40-plus years of experience, Cotter credits NETA with providing the opportunity to exit what had proven to be some relatively dull jobs earlier in his career. “The testing industry offered great opportunities for satisfying and interesting electrical work that provided real benefits to the customer along with endless learning and adventure,” he says. “Involvement with NETA also brought the opportunity to work with sharp, hard-working peers toward the goal of making the testing industry even better.”

Cotter’s first foray into involvement with NETA began in 1983 when he was the appointed NETA representative for Instel and PWR Services. After a short break, he found his niche by writing “In the Field” articles for NETA World for 12 years. “That was easily the most enjoyable effort for me,” he remembers. “I liked to write about interesting jobs I was involved with and mix some educational information with humor whenever possible.” Cotter later provided technical editing services for NETA World from 2014 to 2023.

COMMITTEE CONTRIBUTIONS

In addition to working with now-retired Senior Technical Editor Rod Hageman for several years to write exam questions based on actual field experiences, Cotter served from 2003 to 2023 as member of the Exam Committee and the Standards Review Council (SRC), where he was involved with writing — as well as three-year cycle updates — to the ANSI/NETA standards for electrical equipment acceptance and maintenance testing. 

Hook, who chairs the Technical Exam Committee, says Cotter’s great success can be attributed to his exceptional personal and professional characteristics. “Hisunwavering commitment to integrity and ethics is evident in his dedication to upholding academic standards and fairness in the examination process. This moral compass guides his decision-making and earns him the trust and respect of colleagues and stakeholders.”

“On top of his technical contributions to the NETA’s Standards Review Council and Exam committee, Tim is genuinely a nice person!” Widup adds. “Always one to prefer a Subway sandwich over a fancy lunch, he is someone you can hang out with, enjoy your time together, and laugh at his humor. He sets the standard on how a person should go through life. We should all strive to be like Tim Cotter.”

Top row: Son Dave and wife Bethany; Mary and Tim Cotter; Daughters Sister Virginia Joy and Ellen
Front row: Grandchildren Clare and Paul
Standards Review Council

“Tim Cotter and I have been on the Standards Review Council together for quite a few years,” says NETA Board Member Leif Hoegberg, Director of Engineering and Technical Support at Electrical Reliability Services, “and his contributions have been incredible. He was a great guy to work with, very kind, and with a great sense of humor. I looked up to Tim and saw him as a role model.” 

“I don’t think we can measure Tim’s contributions to NETA,” Widup adds.” We’re so very proud of all the things he’s done. So when he said, ‘Hey man, I’m gonna kind of step down from the SRC,’ we immediately took a vote and denied his request. It was unanimous except for one dissension.”

NETA Certified Technician Exams

“Tim Cotter has had an essential role in writing and updating NETA’s exams for technicians,” recalls Hook. “Through his involvement in the exam committee, Tim played a role in shaping professional development programs and certification processes for individuals in the electrical testing industry. By setting high standards for certification and continuing education, Tim’s work contributed to the ongoing improvement of skills and expertise within the industry.”

“A lot of people might not know that Tim was one of the people who wrote the original NETA Technician exams,” NETA Board Member Jim Cialdea, CEO of Sigma C Power Services, remembers. “I think he scored them too. We could always tell when it was a Tim question because it stumped us. We would discuss the questions, and he would turn us around. We always appreciated that he was not shy. He’s been a huge, huge contributor.”

“Tim’s dedication to the exam committee was impressive in the amount of work he volunteered for as well as the time he dedicated,” Hook continued. “His meticulous attention to detail ensured accuracy and precision, a quality that is particularly valuable in roles such as serving on an exam committee, where thoroughness is essential to maintaining fairness and integrity.”

“Tim’s work on the exam committee contributed to improvements in the electrical testing industry in several ways,” explains Hook. “By ensuring rigorous examination procedures and adherence to industry standards, Tim’s efforts helped define and assess candidate competency within the electrical testing industry. His meticulous attention to detail and commitment to fairness have helped maintain high-quality standards in the examination process. This ensures that professionals working in the electrical testing industry are competent and knowledgeable, thereby improving the overall quality of services provided. 

“Tim’s dedication to upholding academic integrity and fairness reflects positively on the electrical testing industry as a whole. By demonstrating a commitment to professionalism and ethical conduct, Tim and his colleagues on the exam committee likely helped enhance the industry’s reputation and credibility among stakeholders, including clients, regulators, and the public.”

“The exam committee itself has evolved over the years, and early on, it was Tim who wrote nearly all the questions to be sent to the chair of the committee for review and approval,” Hook says. “In our current state on the committee, we engaged a third-party exam developer to guide us through industry best practices. Tim wholeheartedly rose to the occasion, learned new processes and procedures, maintained his unmatched pace of writing questions, and traveled several times to contribute to the committee’s efforts. Up until his recent retirement, Tim was a cornerstone of the whole exam program for literally decades.” 

NETA WORLD

“Tim’s expertise and deep knowledge of the subject matter have contributed significantly to his success,” says Hook. “His comprehensive understanding of electrical testing principles and practices enables him to make informed decisions and provide valuable insights during committee discussions.”

“Tim’s contribution to NETA World has been critical for many years,” says Managing Editor Beverly Sturtevant. “Tim wrote “In the Field” column for 12 years, and then began serving alongside Rod Hageman as a technical editor in 2014, reviewing all of the dozen or so technical articles in each quarterly issue. Throughout his long volunteer service to NETA World, Tim ensured the relevance and accuracy of hundreds of technical articles for our readers.”

“I once thought I’d found something interesting I wanted to write about in NETA World, so I wrote what I thought was a pretty good technical article,” recalls Hook. “Tim was one of the technical editors, and I got a whole litany of — well, let’s just call them suggestions —about how I could make my article better. And they were all true.”

Former NETA Executive Director Mary Jordan adds, “Tim was unusual for a technical person because he was a very creative and grammatically correct writer, and he had the rare ability to make technical writing entertaining.”

“NETA needs people like Tim Cotter to carry on that legacy,” says NETA Board Member Dave Huffman, President of Power Systems Testing Company. “We really do appreciate all that he has done.” 

“My guiding philosophy has been gratitude for the opportunity to work with the one organization that has elevated the electrical testing industry to the point where there is wide and growing recognition of the value it can provide to customers, while also enhancing the many career opportunities it affords to the individuals who work in it,” Cotter says.

“Any success I have had in life I attribute to my parents, the good nuns who educated me from 2nd through 12th grade, a fine engineering school at Michigan Tech, and the great privilege of working with some outstanding individuals over the years,” he continues. “My wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in 2022, and we’re looking forward to enjoying more time with our son, two daughters, and two grandchildren.” Cotter stays active with the Greenville Woodworking Guild and gives back by building whatever is needed by his daughter’s religious order.

“I thank NETA for getting me into the testing business in the first place,” Cotter says. “Being involved with the quality people who built NETA enhanced the experience for me that much more. Receiving this award at the end of my career is a very nice way to finish it, and I thank everyone very much.”