Leaders of NEI
Andrew Ackerman, MBA, PE
Andrew leads the industrial applications group for NEI which supports heavy industrial and commercial clients. Andrew has been providing detailed designs, field engineering services, and managing project teams throughout his 22 years at NEI.
With experience in multiple industries including renewables, oil & gas and utilities, his leadership brings an innovative and knowledgeable set of skills to clients. Andrew is active in several industry committees including IEEE IAS PCIC and American Council of Engineering Companies.
If Andrew could learn one new professional skill, he’d go with Glass Blowing. He doesn’t know what the paycheck looks like, but it looks like fun to him.
Thom is NEI’s Director of Finance. He has held various leadership roles in Finance/Accounting over the past 11 years, including Accounting Manager, Controller, and Director of Finance in a variety of industries including healthcare, SaaS, public venue management, and engineering.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Valdosta State University and is a Certified Management Accountant through the Institute of Management Accountants.
If Thom could learn one new professional skill, he’d love to learn to fly small aircraft.
Carson Bates, PhD, PE, P. Eng
Technical Consultant – Principal Engineer
Carson is a Senior Consultant at NEI and electrical engineer for a variety of projects across the NEI’s portfolio including utility scale renewables, industrial production facilities, and utility system studies. In his role, he performs various technical studies and consults on various electrical designs from protection and control (one lines and schematics) to SCADA (architecture and programming).
Carson has written numerous technical papers and participates on several industry committees including IEEE IAS Petroleum and Chemical Industry Committee (PCIC), IEEE IAS Industrial and Commercial Power Systems (I&CPS), PES Insulated Conductors Committee and PES Renewable Systems Integration Coordinating Committee.
Carson joined NEI in 2011, and throughout his work he has received the 2018 RMEL Emerging Leader Award, and the 2021 PCIC Outstanding Young Professional Achievement Award.
His motto is, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment”
Paul is the Senior Director of Business Development at NEI. He is a solution driven technical sales executive with 30 years of industry experience. Since joining NEI in 2020, Paul brings expert sales, marketing, and engineering skills in the electric power and energy markets with proven technical, analytical, and managerial skills.
Previous to NEI, Paul managed and lead numerous sales groups.
Whitney is NEI’s Director of People Services and brings extensive experience partnering with organizations to provide strategic oversight in areas including leadership development, culture management, team member development, and training.
Whitney’s objective at NEI is to build and maintain a workplace culture of respect and collaboration, building relationships by acting with integrity, poise, and professionalism.
Whitney’s biggest accomplishment outside of NEI is making a pretty mean Zuppa Toscana and possessing Tetris skills that are “on point.” Whitney’s daughters also think her positivity and listening skills are her real superpowers.
Clifton Oertli, PE
President & CEO
As NEI’s President & CEO, Clifton is responsible for leading the organization in delivering seamless and high-quality power engineering solutions to clients across multiple industries. Early in his NEI career, Clifton was responsible for the engineering design and on-site commissioning of numerous utility substations, renewable generation stations, and industrial facilities.
Today, Clifton leverages this past hands-on experience to lead technical and business operational teams toward driving strategic initiatives through creating a values-based and service-oriented culture. In addition to his leadership duties, Clifton still also actively consults with clients on unique and challenging projects, providing long-term strategic direction and insight.
He is actively involved in, and gives back to, the power industry through volunteering and involvement in IEEE, RMEL, and other organizations.
Clifton is a voracious reader and purveyor of podcasts. He loves collecting words of wisdom from this content as well as his mentors. Two of the top candidates for the best advice he has received include, “Easy choices…hard life; hard choices…easy life;” and “Discipline creates opportunity.”
Bryan Farchone, PE
Technical Consultant – Associate Principal Engineer
Bryan is a Technical Consultant in NEI’s utility group and is responsible for providing technical leadership on utility-based projects both inside and outside the organization. His responsibilities include developing new areas of practice, providing thought leadership, and solving technical problems within the business unit. Bryan has over 15 years of experience performing detailed design, power system studies, and field engineering services; and he takes an active role in mentoring and developing engineers as they develop their careers in the power industry
Frank Gotte, ME, PE
Vice President Power Systems
Frank is NEI’s Vice President of Power Systems and has extensive experience managing multi-disciplinary teams on industrial, power generation, and utility projects.
In his 10 years at NEI, Frank has performed detailed design, provided planning studies, conducted power system studies, and supported field engineering services while consulting with clients and delivering high-quality solutions and client services. Frank manages remote teams and takes an active role in providing mentorship to dedicated and passionate engineers. Additionally, Frank has been involved with IEEE Power System Relaying and Control Committee since 2018 contributing to technical reports, guides, and standards on digital substations and renewable energy collector substations.
The best piece of advice given to Frank is, “Create purpose in your life every day. Use your purpose to create shared experiences with your loved ones and anyone else who will join. In doing so you will find that each day on this earth is a gift not to be taken for granted, and you will find that focusing on presence in every moment will bring you gratitude and balance.”
SCADA & Automation
Keith is the Technical Director for NEI’s SCADA department. He has over 15 years’ experience in controls and SCADA systems, as well as programming experience for automation and programming of power plant controls.
Keith performed the role of project engineer and project lead for multiple renewable energy SCADA projects ranging from small size to large scale utility projects. His experience ranges from HMI/RTU/PLC programming, network design, and field commissioning. Keith has worked with all types of clients, from COOPs and utilities to large scale EPCs.
Keith’s biggest accomplishment outside of NEI came in 2014, when he finished an Ironman.
As the leader of the IT group, David has helped to rapidly scale and maintain NEI’s diverse technology environment. He has worked to find solutions that allows NEI to embrace remote workers while still providing them with an IT experience like what in-office users expect.
David’s 20 years of leadership in the Adventure Travel industry is seen in his focus on customer service and making sure that internal IT clients have first class support. He has ability to keep a cool head during incidents- watching a network break is easy compared to broken bones in the wilderness.
If David could learn one new professional skill, he’d choose welding aluminum. He has a growing list of projects he would like to make, and he also thinks proper aluminum welding is beautiful.
Mark Lanphier, PE
Chief Operating Officer – Senior Principal Engineer
Mark is NEI’s Chief Operating Officer. His 23 of years at NEI showcases his extensive experience in designing and managing the design of power and control system design for transmission, substations, power plants, and industrial facilities. His vast experience spans studies of all types, SCADA/controls design, field commissioning, troubleshooting, equipment, relay testing, and much more.
As the head of operations Mark is a dedicated leader responsible for the overall operations of the organization including management of the power systems, civil and structural, project services, and SCADA/Automation groups.
The best advice Mark has received during his career is, “It takes time, persistence, and patience to build great things.”
Holly Lease, PE
Holly is NEI’s Technical Director of Substations. She leverages her eleven years of experience at NEI having worked on many different types of projects and serving several industries to lead the Civil Substation design department.
Her efforts focus on internal quality assurance, professional development, client standards, innovation and design efficiencies, and working with on developing new design solutions for NEI’s partners throughout the power industry.
Her greatest achievement outside of NEI is traveling. She has been to five different continents, 15 countries, and over 3500 cities in the last 10 years. She loves history, culture, and ecology, so exploring new places engages all of Holly’s senses and provides inspiration.
Vice President Client Services
Alan leads the Client Services group for NEI including proposals, business development, and marketing. In addition, he brings extensive experience in project management, engineering, and procurement to NEI.
He has a successful track record of executing numerous go-to-market strategies and a strong understanding of the business and strategy. His expertise spans cost estimating services for large substation, transmission line, MV collection and distribution, and SCADA projects.
Some of the best advice Alan has received is “Focus on what you can control and don’t worry about the rest.”
Denis Litvak, PE
Denis is NEI’s technical director for renewable systems. He has performed a wide variety of detailed designs, power system studies, and field engineering services over the course of nine years at NEI.
Denis has a strong background in power systems analysis that focuses on safety, planning, reliability, and power quality which he uses to develop companywide standards and best practices, as well as provide mentorship to engineers.
If Denis could learn one new professional skill, it would be the art of design. The ability to design something that is both appealing to the eye and easy to read like a website or a coversheet is something that he would love to fully capture.
Andrew Merritt, MSCE, PE
Chief Engineer, Civil & Structural
Andrew Merritt, Chief Engineer of Civil & Structural, joined NEI in 2007. Andrew received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from North Dakota State University in 2006. During his time at NDSU, he studied foundation design, highway design, water supply, and his main focus – structural engineering.
In 2010, Andrew received his Master of Science in Civil Engineering (Structural Engineering) from the University of Colorado Denver. During his time at UCD, he took courses in advanced steel design, advanced concrete design, concrete materials, and many classes in advanced structural analysis. His thesis topic was the beneficial use of ultra-fine fly ash and silica fume for concrete strength, durability, and restrained shrinkage.
In his time at NEI, Andrew has worked on the civil design of many substations. He has experience in site grading, foundation design (both drill pier and spread footings), steel design/detailing, and general arrangement layout.
Andrew has also worked on a variety of transmission/distribution line projects. He has designed electrical lines using steel, wood, and fiberglass. This experience includes line staking, pole/tower design, foundation design, and cost estimation.
Tyler is the Technical Director for NEI’s PV solar department. He has more than 10 years of industry experience in delivering multi-disciplinary engineering designs and solutions for solar power plants totaling over 10GW+.
He oversees the management of PV electrical engineering and brings cohesive and coordinated team leadership to deliver a full solar plant design solution for our clients.
The best piece of advice ever given to Tyler was, “Never become the person who believes they know everything better than anyone else. Never stop being curious and never stop learning.”
As a marketing leader for NEI, Hunter is responsible for all marketing initiatives including brand awareness, sales enablement, messaging, and driving internal marketing. She plays an instrumental role in the go-to-market strategy for the organization and leverages her creative skills in field and communications to provide an innovative approach to the industry.
Her previous experience includes building brands from the ground up and collaborating cross-departmentally to execute business strategies.
The greatest accomplishment she has achieved outside of NEI is correctly folding a fitted sheet.
Paul is NEI’s Director of Project Services, and he brings years of experience in communications, finance, technical sales, project management, sales management, and project management leadership to NEI.
Paul works tirelessly to build strong teams and provide employees and colleagues with challenging opportunities for growth with the goal of transforming strong teammates into strong leaders. He and his team are focused on delivering high-quality projects on time and on budget by collaborating with our customers and working to build a partnership approach to project management.
After being passed for a promotion early in his career, a trusted advisor told Paul, “You have no control over what other people do. You can only control your response to what they do. How you respond will tell them more about you than anything else you do.” That advice changed how he responded to the situation and ultimately changed the path of his career for the better.
Jilu leads the Proposals group within the Client Services department, and brings eight years of industry experience to NEI comprising of three years as a transmission engineer and five years as a proposal engineer.
Jilu has vast proposal experience within the renewable and utility markets including wind, solar, battery storage, coops, and investor-owned utilities.
The best piece of advice Jilu received comes in the form of a quote, “The struggle you’re in today is to develop the strength you need tomorrow.”
Tom Schafer, MSEE, PE
Technical Consultant – Principal Engineer
Tom is a senior consultant and principal engineer at NEI. He has over 19 years of experience managing projects, performing detailed design, power system studies, electrical protection studies, field engineering services, start-up, commissioning and troubleshooting, QA/QC, developing cost proposals, project scheduling and mentoring junior electrical engineers.
If Tom could learn one new professional skill, he’d want to take up hang gliding.
John Wendelburg, PE
Senior Consultant – Civil Associate Principal Engineer
John is a Senior Consultant at NEI, a licensed PE in 21 states, and is a highly accomplished project manager and technical reviewer. John’s proven experience in overseeing the start-to-finish of large-scale civil, structural, and physical electrical portions of substation and transmission line engineering projects is an asset to NEI.
He brings a clear understanding of the practical and field application of industry standards and code requirements for the safe design and construction requirements of high voltage power facilities.
John’s biggest accomplishment outside of NEI is being a musician, playing the clarinet in a variety of Denver based groups.
Published Tech Papers
Jake Wiggins, MSCE, PE
Vice President Civil & Structural
Jake is the Vice President of Civil and Structural Engineering. In his 12 years with NEI, Jake has shaped the standards and processes of the civil engineering department and developed an expertise in both substations and transmission lines.
His technical experience is grounded in design of a diverse range of projects and his integrated approach ensures a complete and reliable design. Jake also invests time in the industry by serving on the ASCE 48 committee for Design of Steel Transmission Pole Structures.
Jake’s greatest accomplishment outside of NEI is free soloing the Matterhorn Liongrat route.
Ryan Brick, PE
Ryan is NEI’s Technical Director of Civil Site Development providing leadership for civil design and permitting support for renewable facilities, utility substations, and transmission lines. Ryan’s industry experience focused heavily on site development as well as adapting Civil designs to local codes and regulations.
He works closely with his team on civil design, environmental feasibility studies, hydrologic modeling, construction specifications, permitting, and construction support.
His biggest accomplishment outside of NEI was serving as the Commander of an engineer company in the Army.