100 Years, 100 People: 2000 - 2009

A new century

Larry Webster

Larry WebsterLarry Webster was born and raised in Albany, Oregon. After getting his Biology degree in 1976, Larry spent some time working at a power plant in Wyoming. He joined the Centralia plant team in 1984 when he was offered a position as Preventive Maintenance Engineer.

Among his peers, Larry has earned recognition for his environmental efforts. “For me, it is about minimizing our footprint. We all know we have one, and we can make it smaller. Fly ash, gypsum from the scrubber, cardboard and wood can all be recycled and repurposed. Even wastewater can be reused; last year we recycled almost 115 million gallons of wastewater to the scrubber,” said Larry.

Larry has been involved on a number of projects that aim to reduce our environmental footprint. He was part of the construction of a wet flue gas desulfurization (scrubber) aimed at reducing sulfur dioxide emissions produced during power generation. This project introduced the process and equipment to “scrub” out emissions and produce gypsum, a by-product used to produce sheetrock.

As the current manager of Process Systems, Larry is responsible for water purification and overseeing waste water treatment, scrubber operations, as well as managing operations at TransAlta’s Skookumchuck Hydro Facility which provides water for Centralia operations. Larry is licensed in the State of Washington as a drinking water and wastewater treatment operator and assists with the coordination of waste recycling at the Centralia facility.

Larry is an outdoor enthusiast. He also enjoys spending time with his two kids and fishing in the Columbia River.
Richard Langhammer

Richard Langhammer

Richard Langhammer was born and raised in Eastern Canada. After graduating from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor’s degree in Science, Richard joined TransAlta in1985 as assistant manager at Keephills plant.
In 1991, Langhammer was promoted to plant manager of TransAlta’s first gas-fired cogeneration facility in Ontario. This position presented an exciting challenge for Richard. “Putting the team together to run the plant was one of the best moments in my career with the company. People are important and we worked hard to ensure we hired and developed the best out there,” said Langhammer. “It is reassuring to know that some of them are still with TransAlta.” From then on, Richard started holding positions in increasing responsibility. In 1995, he was promoted to director of Plant Operations for Ontario and in 2003 Richard moved to Centralia where he was responsible for TransAlta’s U.S. Operations. At his return to Calgary, he was promoted to executive vice-president, Generation Operations.
In 2009, after 24 years of service to TransAlta, Langhammer retired as chief productivity officer. He and his wife currently live in British Columbia.
Steve Snyder

Steve Snyder

Steve Snyder was TransAlta’s President and CEO from 1996 to 2011. He was born in Montreal. After getting his B.Sc in chemical engineering from Queen’s University and a Master’s in business administration from the University of Western Ontario, Steve held a variety of key positions with General Electric Corporation, Noma Industries Limited and Camco Inc.
Steve started at TransAlta in 1996 at a time when deregulation was being introduced in Alberta. During this time, he successfully guided TransAlta through the electricity deregulation process, transforming the company from an integrated, regulated, Alberta‐focused organization into a competitive, international wholesale electricity generator and power marketer. During his time as President, the company doubled its generation capacity, built a highly successful electricity trading business, and delivered top quartile industry operating performance. Under his leadership, TransAlta became Canada’s largest publicly traded generator and marketer of electricity and renewable power.
Steve was passionate about the constant improvement of the company. He was also a strong advocate of carbon capture and storage.  In late 2009, under Steve’s leadership, TransAlta acquired Canadian Hydro Developers. This acquisition significantly increased TransAlta’s renewable capacity.
Steve is also an active member of the community. He was a director of TransAlta Corporation and Intact Financial Corporation. He is an immediate past Director of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, past Chair of the Calgary Stampede Foundation, and past Chair of the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness. Additionally, Steve is a past Director of the Calgary Stampede, and the past Chair of the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness, the Canada-Alberta ecoEnergy Carbon Capture & Storage Task Force, the Conference Board of Canada, the Calgary Zoological Society, the Canadian Electrical Association, the United Way Campaign of Calgary and Area, and the Calgary Zoo’s “Destination Africa” capital campaign. He was awarded the Alberta Centennial medal in 2005, The Conference Board of Canada 2008 Honorary Associate Award, and in 2009 the Chamber of Commerce Sherrold Moore Award of Excellence. Steve received the 2010 Energy Person of the Year award.
Steve has received honorary degrees from the University of Calgary, and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. He is married and has two grown children.
Kevin Van Koughnett

Kevin Van Koughnett

Kevin Van Koughnett  is a 31 year employee of TransAlta and one of the company’s pioneers in wind energy. He was born and raised in Toronto. After graduating from Queens University with a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering, Kevin spent some time working in Ontario and New Brunswick until finally settling in Calgary.
Van Koughnett joined Calgary Power in 1979. As a self-proclaimed ‘perpetual student’, Kevin has taken every opportunity to learn new aspects of the company. Since 1979, Kevin has held 11 different positions. In 1986 he added an MBA from the University of Calgary to his credentials and in 1994 a certificate in financial planning.
In 2000, as part of his work in the Business Development group, Kevin was responsible for leading the efforts that led TransAlta to make its initial investments in the privately owned wind energy company, VisionQuest Windelectric. He served as a TransAlta representative on the VisionQuest Board of Directors and was seconded to lead their business development efforts in 2002. Later that year, TransAlta purchased VisionQuest outright thanks in part to Kevin’s foresight, his important relationships with the VisionQuest team, and his valuable guidance in pursuing wind energy as part of TransAlta’s sustainable development strategy. Since that initial acquisition, Kevin has contributed in almost every aspect of TransAlta’s wind development program, including and building the wind team’s capabilities. Today, thanks to entire wind team, TransAlta is one of Canada’s largest wind energy producers.
While Kevin’s contributions to the evolution of wind are innumerable, they should not overshadow other important contributions he has made to the company, including:
•    Leading numerous major potential acquisitions both nationally and internationally,
•    Evaluating assets during the transition from a regulated to an unregulated market in Alberta and internationally and more recently, to his work today as Director of Transmission.
Although Kevin could have retired a while ago, he feels that at TransAlta he is making a difference. “At TransAlta we stand up for what we say and that’s important. Not many companies are always looking to do the right thing for its employees, shareholders, customers and the community and TransAlta is one of them,” said Van Koughnett. Kevin is married to Carol and they have two grown children, Kyle and Alison.
John Gordon

John Gordon

John Gordon  Was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. After working for 21 years with Seagram and obtaining a license as a Millwright and an operating engineer certificate, John was ready for a change. “I began my career with TransAlta in 1992 during the initial construction and commissioning of the Mississauga cogeneration plant,” said Gordon.
His career grew as TransAlta’s Ontario strategy was implemented, going from mechanical specialist to assistant plant manager in Mississauga, then to plant manager in Ottawa, and operations and maintenance manager in Sarnia.
John feels particularly proud about the role he played in executing TransAlta’s strategy to venture into the Independent Power Market in Ontario. His participation in this strategy varied from the commissioning and maintenance of the first GE LM6000 gas turbine in the world to the everyday operation of one the largest cogeneration plants in Canada (Sarnia). But his favorite part of the project was the creation of the Sarnia operating and maintaining team. “With the help of many, we created a successful, empowered and accountable workforce with employees from the local area who shared in our vision,” added Gordon.
Gordon believes that TransAlta’s culture gives everyone an opportunity to take on new and more complex assignments that truly support the business. In his opinion that is what sets us apart from other corporations. “At TransAlta I learned that enormous productivity gains can be achieved if people are trusted and encouraged to make everyday business decisions at their level of accountability,” added Gordon. “TransAlta will always be a player in the energy industry and my personal hope is that TransAlta will focus on the environment as a key component in their definition of success.”
Gordon thinks no one can be successful without the support of family and the mentoring of business associates. “I was fortunate to have both and will always be thankful for that.” Gordon retired as director of operations of the Eastern Region in 2009. He currently lives on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.