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For Shawn Huff, it all began in Storm Lake, Iowa, where he applied to a local workforce center hiring tree trimmers.

Shawn, who was named the UAA’s 2022 Rising Star Award Winner, says he was simply trying to land his first job and nowhere near thinking that utility arboriculture was a definite career path. Everything changed, he says, when he worked for Jim Puentes of MidAmerican Energy who wanted better pay and benefits for the guys working on his system. Shawn was impressed.

From there, his experience includes stints as a Supervisor of Operations for Wright Tree Service, and working as a Senior Utility Forester and Account Manager for Davey Resource Group. Fast-forward 22 years and Shawn is Supervisor of Vegetation Management with OGE Energy Corporation, which serves more than 800,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

“I have known for a while that I wanted to supervise a vegetation program and my current role gives me the greatest ability to impact people in this industry in a positive way.”

The impact of mentors like Will Nutter, Jack McCabe, and Richard Bewley, demonstrated how the industry offered tremendous opportunities for him.

“All three of these men taught me to be a better person in life and in our line of work,” he says. “Richard Bewley was and still is a mentor to me. I appreciated how he encouraged me over the years. He always was willing to lend his experience and knowledge to help me in whatever role I was in at the time. I learned from him that sharing with and helping others has a greater impact on the industry than trying to keep things to yourself for selfish ambition.”

A key to Shawn’s best practices is following the advice and guidance of his mentors, and looking to helpful resources such as Incident Prevention magazine.

“With all the emphasis on safety, it always surprises me when I learn that people don’t know about it. I have found a lot of useful, applicable information in this publication.”

Shawn’s professional life is also influenced by popular culture. A longtime fan of the popular TV series Star Trek, he looks to Jean-Luc Picard, who captains the Federation starship USS Enterprise.

“He is thoughtful, full of grace, sets high expectations, helps his people achieve them, seeks council from those around him, and never presents himself as having all the answers. He is the type of leader I strive to be.”

Congratulations, Shawn Huff, on your UAA Rising Star Award.