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This year’s Managers’ Summit brought together representatives from ACRT Services and all four of our operating companies (Bermex, ACRT, ACRT Pacific, and EnviroScience) at Deer Creek State Park in Mt. Sterling, Ohio.
During the Summit, managers from each company had the opportunity to recognize their peers as the top manager of the year with the Hammer of Honor. Each hammer was hand-crafted by ACRT Services CEO Mike Weidner himself.
The Hammer of Honor is awarded to the operations leader who has hammered home their leadership skills, nailed teamwork, chiseled out innovative solutions, and consistently built a sturdy foundation of success. They must be a true master of the craft, demonstrating their ability to drive results and nail every aspect of their role with precision and impact. The winner is the one who truly struck the right chord with their peers, forging success through their outstanding qualities, and dedication.
Learn more about Eric Morales, an operations manager, who was named the inaugural ACRT Hammer of Honor recipient.
Tell us about yourself.
I went to Stephen F. Austin State University and got a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (a horticulture degree with a forestry emphasis). I didn’t know much about utility vegetation management at the time, but one of my old college roommates told me to apply at ACRT. That was 17 years ago. I started in South Texas doing ticket and inspection-like work, then Kenny Murphy called me and said that a position opened closer to home, in Dallas to be exact. I wanted to be closer to my family. I jumped on that opportunity, and I’ve been here ever since! I have a 14-year-old daughter, Sarah, that’s my little homie right there. We do a lot of stuff together – I’m a proud dance and cheer dad.
I’ve been ISA-certified for about 15 of those 17 years. That’s one of the things we try to talk about. We want to let folks know that there is something out there in the forestry and arboriculture realm that they might not be aware of. I was one of those people who were unaware of this line of work, but I’m glad I found it. I came here in 2006. It doesn’t feel like that long, but I guess I’m considered one of the oldies now.
I don’t get out as much as I used to, but I like to be outdoors. I enjoy hunting, fishing, and golfing. I’ve always enjoyed this line of work and getting out into the field. I did a little bit of all of it – transmission, distribution; both planned and capital side – and transmission was always my favorite because you were never in the same place and I was always seeing neat countryside and wildlife. You’re kind of a loner on transmission, but it was always very rewarding to me to be able to see all the cool scenery. I saw my first badger when I was out inspecting transmission lines, I saw a porcupine, lots of amazing deer, and all kinds of crazy animals. I’d park on the side of the right-of-way under a shade tree to eat my lunch (a lot of times you have to carry your lunch because it’s an hour back to town and another hour back to the line) and you never know what you’d see. I was sitting there eating lunch one day and 60 turkeys came right up to the truck. I’ve seen some albino deer.
How do you feel about being selected as the inaugural ACRT Pacific Hammer of Honor recipient?
When they passed out the cards at the Summit, I voted for Pat Paternostro. I had no earthly idea; I was so taken aback. I cannot even lie about it, I did not expect to be the recipient of the Hammer, so I was floored. Puls got up there and started giving his little spiel and it kept going on and a little lightbulb went off and the more he kept talking, I said to myself, “Dadgummit, I think he’s talking about me.” I started getting real nervous and sure enough, he said, “Eric Morales.” I was extremely honored to have those folks vote for me. I have my hammer on my bookshelf in my living room and just wait for people to ask what it is so I can tell them it’s an award I got at work. It’s in full-frontal display in my living room.
What is your management style/philosophy?
I’m an open book. I love questions and ideas. We have people from all kinds of walks of life and different backgrounds in our group. We have a diverse team that comes up with a lot of great ideas. One of the first things that I do during new hire orientation is let people know that we want them to come to me – if a lightbulb goes off in their head and they think of something that could make our processes better – bring it to us. The book is not written. A lot of the practices and things we do have been ideas from team members through the years. I don’t like the status quo. I don’t want to just get the job done, I want to continue to get better at what we do. So if our folks see something we could be doing better and it makes sense, we’ll put it into practice. That continually makes our team better and it makes our value better.
I love it when my teammates and team members ask questions. I don’t know the answer to all of them, but I do have a little bit of experience to answer those questions. Sometimes, I learn from those questions, too. Sometimes, I learn just as much – even after being here this long – from some of the questions these folks ask. One of the things that bugs me is when somebody calls and says, “Hey, I’m sorry for bothering you,” and I’m like, “You’re not bothering me. I’m an operations manager.” If they didn’t need anything from me, ACRT wouldn’t need me as an operations manager. That’s what I’m here for – support for my team.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The thing I enjoy most about my job is watching the growth of these people who come in and don’t know anything about trees, lines, or even how to talk to someone. Watching that growth of somebody who is too timid to even carry a conversation, then next thing you know, they’re dealing with high-profile folks, their tree and plant ID and arboriculture practices are through the roof, and they can spot every piece of hardware out there. I love that aspect of it.
ACRT is the largest independent utility consulting company in the U.S. and empowers utilities to proactively manage vegetation across their entire rights-of-way. We consistently stay on top of and share relevant industry content with our employees and customers around the country.