ORAL HISTORY OF MONTROSE
By Kenneth (Ken) E. Norris, P.E., MBA
I graduated from the Somerset School in the sixth grade. In my first and second grade I got into a lot of fights with the Somerset kids because they were all sons and daughters of coal miners.
We were kind of the outsiders. I got into a lot of fights with the tough miner’s kids. But I finally made my way and was accepted. Then in the sixth grade, we were bussed to Paonia. I graduated from Paonia High School in 1966, and then graduated from Colorado State University (CSU) in 1971. At CSU I got my Mechanical Engineering Degree and later I was licensed as a Professional Engineer.
Then I went to work for Public Service Company of Colorado in Denver for four years. After that, I came over to Montrose to work at Colorado Ute. Later on I had the opportunity to get an MBA degree by commuting to the University of Colorado in Denver every other week for two years. That’s how I got started.
In 1975, when I came here I was hired to be the Project Engineer on the power plants, Craig Station Units 1 and 2, and also on Hayden Station Unit 2 in northern Colorado. I was hired by John J. Bugas, the President of Colorado-Ute - he was the sparkplug in the whole thing. He made everything work. He was an ex-West Point Civil Engineering Professor. He was a graduate engineer with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Wyoming University. He was tougher than nails.
When I had an interview for the job with Colorado Ute, I wasn’t sure that the interviewer was very interested in me - I had a coffee break with the interviewer. Then he and everybody else left, I was kind of collecting my papers. Another individual came in and sat down - it was John Bugas, but I didn’t know it at that time.
I had learned about the job opening at Colorado Ute from a man by the name of Ed Chenevert. Ed’s an Olathe individual who had left Public Service Company in Denver. He told me: “You’d better look at the job opening in Montrose at Colorado Ute,” That’s how I found out.
Anyway, at the end of the day after the a coffee break, the guy introduced himself. He was, of course, the President of Colorado Ute. From then on I had no problems. I had a job offer before I got back to Somerset. My Mom and Dad still lived at Somerset. Anyway, I had a job offer and he asked me to be the project engineer on Craig Units 1 and 2, and Hayden Unit 2. At that time the plant site for Craig Units 1 and 2 was only a bare hay field south of Craig. It was difficult to imagine that a power plant would be in that field in the future - but it was my job to see that it happened.