Meet Richard Fleager

2006 College of Business Gold Nugget

Richard Fleager

  It's all about education and investing in yourself.

What did you study for your BBA? MBA?

I majored in accounting for my BBA degree. For my MBA degree, I principally selected Economics and Finance courses.

What was the next step after you graduated from UTEP? Did you immediately begin your MBA? Work Experience?

Shortly after I graduated, I married my wife, Bonnie, who also graduated from UTEP with a BBA degree. We have been married for almost 36 years. My first job was with the old State National Bank which is now Wells Fargo Bank. Later, I went to work for El Paso Natural Gas Company (EPNG), I worked there for about 23 years. In September 1997 I started with Texas Gas Service Company a Division of ONEOK, Inc.

How was the 23 years work experience at El Paso Natural Gas?

It was very enjoyable. I was able to have a diverse career which always provided business and educational opportunities. I began my career with the accounting department, and shortly thereafter, passed the CPA exam. I was able to pass the exam on my first attempt and I certainly give tremendous credit to the professors at UTEP for preparing me so well in the fundamentals of accounting.  Later, I transferred to the Information Systems Department and headed a team that was charged with building the first on-line system at EPNG. I ultimately became Vice President of the Information Systems Department.

How was your transition from working for El Paso Natural Gas to Texas Gas Service?

EPNG’s corporate headquarters were located in El Paso at the time. Therefore, typical corporate functions like executive, legal, accounting, engineering, information systems, and communications were located in El Paso. Texas Gas Service is a regional headquarters with functions like customer service, construction and maintenance, and pipeline protection. At EPNG and at Texas Gas Service, I have found the employees to be energetic, highly motivated, and interested in sharing their ideas on how to improve company operations.  It has been my good fortune to work with people that are skilled and willing to work as a team to meet common goals.

What are your responsibilities as Vice-President for Texas Gas Service?

I oversee the daily operations of the Western Region of Texas Gas Service which includes the El Paso Service Center, Information Center, Rio Grande Valley area, and the Permian area.  At present, there are about 350 employees in the Western Region. Our employees provide quality service to over 210,000 customers in the El Paso area; over 10,000 customers in the Permian Area; and approximately 70,000 customers in the Rio Grande Valley Area. The Information Center handles over 1,400,000 phone calls from our Texas service territories.

Have you ever had an obstacle that made you regret or rethink a decision you had previously made?

When I was at UTEP, I started off as an engineering major and after about a year, it was clear to me that I was in the wrong field of study. I then recalled a book-keeping course that I took at Cathedral High School and decided to switch my major to accounting. Once I took my first accounting course, I knew that this was the career for me. I have had many other challenges throughout my career but I’ve always felt that if you accept the challenge, surround yourself with the right team, and ensure that your team has common goals, you will be successful.

So, you feel that you were prepared with the strong foundation from UTEP?

Maybe not at the beginning, but as I moved into the business world and started working with people from other areas of the country, I realized that I had received a very strong educational foundation from UTEP. As I mentioned earlier, I was able to pass the CPA exam on my first attempt and at the time this was quite unusual. I truly feel that the professors at UTEP truly prepared me for the business world. Later on, when I was hiring individuals for the Information Systems Department, UTEP graduates clearly competed with candidates from all over the country. At Texas Gas Service Company, we have a number of highly skilled and talented business and engineering employees. UTEP has changed quite a bit from when I went to school there, but I can say that the quality of graduates remains high.

Is there any advice you would give to current CoBA students?

Again, I think students need to realize that the quality of their education depends a great deal on how much they want to invest in themselves. If a person sets high educational goals for themselves and achieves their goals, their education can never be taken away.  I recommend that all students take advantage of business organizations and to the extent possible participate in extra curricular activities even if it is only study groups. In the business world, your early success will be centered around teamwork and communications and these activities prepare you for those challenges. Finally, I want to emphasize that education is an investment and your returns are strictly based upon your willingness to work hard and challenge yourself.

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