Wooden blocks showing workplace safety concepts: communication, leadership, training, compliance and safety first
The new executive director details the importance of maintaining strict protocols where propane safety processes are concerned in this month's Industry Insider

Derek Poe, Missouri Propane Safety CommissionDescribe an average day on the job in your current role.

As the executive director of the Missouri Propane Safety Commission (MPSC), I administer, manage and direct the business of the commission. This includes planning and monitoring assignments of the MPSC inspectors, reviewing safety programs and procedures, and providing education on codes and other safety requirements, as well as enforcing statute and rule compliance and communicating with state agencies and propane marketers to ensure Missouri remains a safe place to live, work and enjoy.

What is the biggest challenge the industry is facing right now, and what are you doing in your company to overcome it?

Safety is a challenge the industry will always face. We must stay vigilant and constantly strive for improvement in the overall safety for all propane consumers. Complacency is often a major factor in the safety challenges our industry faces. Through education and proper training with the help and cooperation of marketers, suppliers, affiliated industries and other partner agencies, we can reduce the number of incidents, because one injury or fatality is too many.

What advice do you have for someone coming into the industry?

Listen — This industry has very knowledgeable and experienced individuals in every sector and location. Taking the time to listen to those individuals will provide a wealth of knowledge and accelerate your own comfort level in the industry. Learn — There are great educational opportunities available via state and national propane associations and councils. New applications and technology are being added to the industry constantly. Stay current and continually learning about industry advancements.


Take advantage of the chance to learn more about what propane can do outside your normal job functions. Get involved — There are many organizations out there working hard for the benefit of the propane industry. These organizations always need more volunteers to help further their cause. The mentorship and networking that can be gained through service with these organizations, is very valuable no matter your role within the industry.

What's something not a lot of people know about you?

I really like to cook, especially on my smoker/grill or flat top. I love to smoke a brisket or ribs, make hibachi or my new adventure — smoked queso. I enjoy the challenge of finding and making new things my family enjoys. The creativity you can use when trying a new recipe or putting a different twist on an old standby dish is fun for me.

Who has/have been the strongest influences in your career to date?

From a personal standpoint, I am not any different than most people in the fact that my family has had a very strong influence on my career. My parents taught a strong work ethic and that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Hard work will always lead to a reward, it just may not be the one you were expecting.

There are many choices that must be made during one’s career, and many times these are the hardest decisions with the shortest deadlines. My wife, Amy, has been my most valued adviser, cheerleader and supporter as I have dealt with these career altering decisions. She is the one who adjusts and makes the sacrifices, as my duties would take me away from home more. Her encouragement and confidence in me allowed me to take a chance when new opportunities came along and not just stay with what was comfortable or familiar.

Professionally, one of my most valued mentors in the propane industry has been Tony Wallach. As my direct supervisor during my time with a retail marketer, Wallach consistently challenged me to grow professionally. He often saw opportunities for me to improve my skill set and started me on the path to realize the benefits.

Simply by his actions, Wallach taught me how to be a good leader. He taught me to care about your team as a whole and as individuals; to listen and be responsive and supportive of their needs or concerns; to keep them informed; to honestly and openly discuss where there is room for improvement; and most importantly, celebrate their success.

What's the last thing you read?

“A Helluva Ride” by Joseph Armentano. I received this book from one of my mentors in the propane industry. As I began reading, I thought I would simply be gaining some knowledge of the family business dynamics within the industry — which I did. The book also reinforced that we all face obstacles in our lives. We can choose what the outcomes of those obstacles or circumstances will be based on the way we choose to handle them. I found myself reflecting on challenges I have faced in my own life and reexamining how I dealt with them.

Name a few skills you think everyone in your role or a similar one should learn.

Active listening — Often you can gather very important information without the need for a long line of questioning. Understanding someone else’s point of view, experience and concerns will always help you make a more informed decision. Time management — Dealing with many different agencies, all types of propane marketers and affiliated industries leads to a variety of timelines and expectations. Managing your time and staying up to date on multiple items is vital. Networking — No one can be an expert on everything. Create a network of individuals you trust and can reach out to when you have questions. Learn from their experiences and knowledge to improve your own.

How would you spend an unexpected day off?

Spending time with my family. Most of us live a fast-paced life these days. We don’t often take the time to be present, slow down and enjoy the moment. Any extra time you can spend with loved ones is priceless and should be cherished. Take time each day to let someone know you care about them and how much they mean to you.



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