AVEC Spotlight on Pam Lyons

Posted: December 1, 2021

Learn what it takes to be an electric utility procurement specialist

By Sheena Marrs

Every project needs materials and equipment. The people who can get those are often just as valuable.

Pam Lyons started with Alaska Village Electric Cooperative as an engineering secretary in March 2000, shortly after moving to Anchorage from Fairbanks. She welcomed the slower pace of her new position. However, she quickly realized she is driven by new challenges and problem solving.

Within six months, Pam landed a procurement specialist position. In 2006, she worked her way up to become a purchasing agent at a time when big changes were happening at the cooperative.

She has endured a building remodel and major organizational restructures.

Because of her ability to get the job done, Pam found herself occasionally climbing on the headquarters rooftop with contractors and fixing drains.

“I guess that is what is considered to be other duties as assigned,” she jokes.

As an electric utility, AVEC needs materials and equipment to provide its services. Pam is the one who gets things for major projects and makes annual purchases.

Her work is divided between barge season and bidding season.

Barge season typically runs from March to November, and entails gathering quotes, tracking deliveries and managing fuel contracts. She ensures power plant facilities are stocked with fuel, drums of oil and antifreeze, and utility poles—most of which are delivered by Vitus Marine.

Transformers are stocked and warehoused to be shipped to villages as needed. Pam also procures and direct ships most orders for the Bethel power plant throughout the year, which eliminates the need for Anchorage personnel to put hands on the parts.

Pam is amused by the innovative methods used to haul items to their destinations. Geographic location, weather conditions and shipping specifications influence how items arrive. When getting quotes, she uses strategies that are likely to deliver the best value for the cooperative.

One of her earliest memories as a purchasing agent was when she contacted the barge company to track down a freight delivery in one of the communities AVEC serves. The response was, “Yeah, it was delivered—around the bend in the river behind the big rock.”

Pam works closely with other AVEC departments to learn the scope of work for capital improvement and government-funded projects. Working cooperatively with other departments helps her create a synopsis of the specific procurement details to include in bidding packages.

After bids are received, Pam summarizes results and works with the appropriate department to ensure orders meet project requirements for quality and availability and are placed within the project deadlines. She then awards the contract to the chosen vendor and builds out a delivery schedule to get the goods to their destination on time.

Her strong organizational skills are evidenced by her workspace walls, which are neatly lined with files to help make tracking orders, bids and shipments manageable.

“You have to be a bit of a bulldog,” Pam says.

She says she cannot sit around and expect things to happen.

Follow-up and gentle prodding are required.

A keen attention to detail and a bullish attitude has contributed to her many years of success. Pam ensures every detail has been considered by the time the goods are delivered.

Getting goods from the lower 48 to Alaska villages is no small task. Through the years, Pam has acquired a list of potential suppliers and established rapport with vendors across the globe.

Technology and company mergers have made outside working relationships less personal. Until a few years ago, it was common for vendors to stop by the office for introductions. In most cases, there was familiarity with those on the other end of the transactions. Today, speaking to an agent in a toll center is the norm.

Pam says some projects have been delayed by more than a year because materials are not available due to a global supply chain crisis. However, once materials have been located, she says she has not experienced any obstacles out of the ordinary in getting the goods from Seattle to rural Alaska.

After 21 years of service, Pam remains motivated because she is helping AVEC members by getting fuel and freight to villages. She enjoys problem-solving and believes her efforts to coordinate cost-effective and timely procurements and deliveries contribute to AVEC’s ability to offer reliable and affordable service.

Outside of work, Pam enjoys trying new things: restaurants, places and whatever opportunities arise. She recalls climbing to the top of a wind turbine and was taken aback by its scale and size, and the panoramic views from above. Pam enjoys working behind the scenes, but she is at the heart of making AVEC projects a reality. Her work impacts timelines, and her purchasing strategies are the difference between the cooperative getting what it needs and going without.