Longtime friends, colleagues part ways at Purvin & Gertz

March 10, 2011 By    

Ron Gist has become the new Craig Whitley at Purvin & Gertz. No joke.

When Gist stepped to the podium at the NPGA International Committee meeting in San Francisco, prior to giving his propane supply update on Jan. 30, he delivered a joke – simply because that’s what Whitley would have done, Boudreaux style, in his familiar Cajun accent.

“That may be my one and only attempt at a joke,” Gist says. “For continuity, I had to do it at least once.”

A changing of the guard has taken place at Purvin & Gertz, an independent energy consultancy based in Houston. After 17 years there as senior principal, Whitley, a propane industry icon, recently joined BP as NGL analytics team lead.

Whitley’s move allows good-friend Gist to handle many of his former responsibilities. That includes sitting on the International Committee and presenting supply reports as a managing consultant for Purvin & Gertz.

As Gist explains, Whitley had two primary roles at Purvin & Gertz: He was the interface with the retail propane marketers as well as a propane and butane specialist, particularly for the Latin American market. Gist, who has 20 years of experience in propane and 12 with Purvin & Gertz, will become the go-to guy in those areas.

“This gives me a chance to interact with the retailers on a personal level,” Gist says. “I’m looking forward to that.”

But things will definitely be different around the Purvin & Gertz offices in Houston. Not only was Whitley a mainstay at the firm – “you can’t lose somebody like Craig without having to make some adjustments,” Gist says – but the two have known each other for about 20 years, through their kids’ schooling and a previous consulting job together.

“Craig always wants to entertain, and so he was always telling jokes and keeping things sort of light,” Gist says. “Probably the most interesting thing about Craig is he was sort of a free spirit among the consulting group at Purvin & Gertz. He just was fun to be around. He was not cut from the same cloth like a lot of engineers, including myself.”

Certainly, the industry will miss that as well.

Lengthy debate
One particular issue dominated discussion at the NPGA winter board meeting in San Francisco: an increase in testing and proctor registration fees for the industry’s flagship curriculum in workforce training and certification.

NPGA’s proposed FY 2012 budget reflected a revenue increase of $364,500 from the Certified Employee Training Program (CETP), an eye-catching 98 percent jump from the previous year’s numbers, due to the rate hikes.

Effective March 1, both written and online CETP tests increased to $85. That’s a $25 increase for written tests and a $35 bump for online tests. In addition, proctor registration fees increased to $50 – they had been $20. Proctors must renew their registration on an annual basis.

The increases left some industry members questioning the motives behind such a move and concerned that it might compromise industry safety – if fewer people choose to take the training due to the higher costs.

The Executive Committee decision, its members say, was based on aligning CETP training fees more with training programs outside the propane industry. They also admit that NPGA can utilize the revenue in pressing legal and energy lobbying areas.

That’s why some in the industry believe a membership dues hike would have been more equitable, instead of placing needed revenue generation on the backs of test takers. Some also are wondering if PERC can play a future role in lessening the financial burden of these training and registration fees.

At the meeting, the NPGA board rejected a motion from South Carolina representatives, who suggested the Executive Committee review other funding options. This new pricing structure was established last August and proposed in October, so board members had ample time to review the numbers and react, NPGA officials emphasize.

In the end, the budget was accepted as proposed, leaving the rate hikes intact – at least for this year.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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