Staff Bios

At Sun Valley Solar Solutions, our employees define us.

Sun Valley Solar owners, founders and former Intel engineers, Joe Messner and Russ Patzer, strive hard to create an environment that challenges, motivates, and personally grows each employee, which we believe is ultimately more valuable than just a paycheck. That said, we do pay good wages, teach our employees LEAN manufacturing and continuous process improvements, and offer ongoing classroom and on-the-job training. We constantly monitor our company culture and ask ourselves “are we the company we want to be?”

By participating in the day-to-day operations, never asking anyone to do a job they wouldn’t do, and working closely with employees, Joe and Russ lead by example, which sets the tone for ethical behaviors and practices, and leads to an exceedingly high-quality final product for our customers.

Our company culture rewards people who go above and beyond their expected duties. Additionally, we are not just another “stuffy” and boring company. We encourage individuality and initiative. We value honesty and know the value of “fun,” too! By being informally run, we can create great relationships with our customers while meeting the demanding, constant changes of the solar industry.

Meet some of the Sun Valley Solar staff:

Russ Patzer CEO of Sun Valley Solar Solutions
Russ Patzer, CEO

Russ has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He started his first business when he was 12 years old, gathering “oak knots” in the area around Prescott, Arizona and selling them by the truckload for firewood. From the age of 11-16 he participated in junior and high school rodeo circuits where he competed in the roping events.

Russ’s professional career began with Intel at age 19 when he worked the night shift while obtaining his degree in chemical engineering from Arizona State University. After graduation, Russ continued with Intel as Process Engineer,ramping the new Arizona factories Fab 12C, Fab 22, and Fab 32 up from seed.

Russ was promoted to Engineer Manager for Intel in 2003 when he lead the Fab startup for the dry etch area from dirt to high-volume manufacturing. He received formal training in Lean manufacturing and Kaizen, and was tasked to convert the Fab’s culture over to the Lean mindset. In Russ’s words, “you had to internalize these principles in order to lead a group to implement them.” And to this day, every day, he is always thinking about how to improve efficiency while cutting costs.

In 2005, Russ was “bit by the solar bug” after returning from an assignment in Oregon and left Intel in 2007 to commit his full attention to solar.

Joe Messner, Chief Operations Officer at Sun Valley Solar Solutions
Joe Messner, COO, NABCEP-certified

Joe has worked in the solar industry since 2005 and in the electrical/electronic industry since 1983. Currently the Chief Operations Officer at Sun Valley Solar Solutions, Chandler, Arizona, he has managed the technical development, installation, operations and quality control of over 5 megawatts of residential and small commercial solar projects in Arizona.

Joe gained LEAN manufacturing and semiconductor process engineering experience during his 14 years at Intel Corporation working in various process engineering department roles. He developed much of his electrical experience from working on radar systems in the US Navy and afterwards at numerous large Fortune 50 companies such as General Electric, Martin Marietta and Lockheed as a defense contractor.

He is an Arizona licensed residential/commercial electrician, as well as a NABCEP Certified PV Installer. He also is a certified by the Building Performance Institute as an Envelope Professional certified to do Home Energy Efficiency audits and retrofits.

On the weekends it is motorcycles, both street and off road desert racing as well as restoring old jeeps.  Recently, he has taken his own home “off-grid” as a test, since so many people are interested in this.

Kelly Wilson, VP of Operations

If your solar electric system has been installed in the past three years, chances are you’ve heard of Kelly Wilson, VP of Operations. Kelly has the huge task of overseeing the project managers, making sure that all documents are submitted correctly, and scheduling between homeowners, solar installers, city inspectors and electric utilities goes as smoothly as possible.

Kelly says the most important aspect of her job is making customers feel comfortable with all parts of the installation process.

Kelly got her degree in interior design from ASU where she met her husband. She and her husband, a Lead Brewer for San Tan Brewing Co., also enjoy sampling craft beers and attending beer-tasting events. They even had a microbrewery in Costa Rica where they lived for three years.

For Kelly, the best part of her job is her co-workers. “I enjoy being part of a group that has the same passion – that the customer is our number one priority,” she says.

Michelle Burnett, Director of Sales at Sun Valley Solar Solutions
Michelle Burnett, Sales Director

Since 1995, Michelle has been involved in leadership development, customer relations, training, and process and service improvement. When she came to work here, she was drawn by the “awesome company culture and people,” as well as Sun Valley Solar Solutions’ reputation for integrity.

She believes that sales means maintaining excellent customer relationships, educating and setting expectations, and being great stewards of the solar industry.

Michelle likes spending time with her family, and is the biggest football fan out of all 3 of the “boys” in her household.

Pel Abbott, VP of Marketing at Sun Valley Solar Solutions
Pel Abbott, VP of Marketing

Pel came to Sun Valley Solar with both a construction and marketing background, with time spent at one of the nation’s top SEO (search engine optimization) companies, the Arizona Republic /, and as co-owner of her own advertising agency in Kansas City for fifteen years. Her marketing work has won awards from the American Marketing Association (AMA), Ad Club (Addy’s), the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC.)

For ten years she built luxury homes in the Valley, the last eight of those years as co-owner of Savage Fine Builders. She spends her spare hours writing, playing guitar, piano, singing and writing songs. She hopes to finish that book someday.

Tom Lammie, Solar Instigator at Sun Valley Solar Solutions
Tom Lammie, Senior Solar Instigator

Tom was born. And now he works 15 hours a day to sell solar. He’s also a proud solar electric system owner – his 2012 June / July bill was $20 – (did he mention PROUD??)

Prior to joining Sun Valley Solar Solutions, Tom was Western Region Sales Manager for Canon, so he’s very familiar with dealer networks and distribution channels. Prior to that, it was when he served as an electrician in the Navy that he first became aware of electrons.

Selling solar has hurt Tom’s golf game. He used to be an 8 handicap, now he’s an 18. So ask him to play so you can win. ;)

Chad Petersen of Sun Valley Solar Solutions
Chad Petersen, Senior Designer, NABCEP-certified

Chad joined SVSS shortly after graduating from the science and technology Master’s program at Arizona State University.

While attending university, Chad interned at a solar module testing and certification lab, where he performed safety testing, worked on special projects, and wrote standard operating procedures. Chad became a NABCEP-certified solar installer in 2011.

Most of Chad’s free time is spent working on his old Mercedes diesel, and he hopes to get air conditioning installed in it before the next Arizona summer.

Curt Hilliker - VP Commercial Division, Sun Valley Solar SolutionsCurt Hilliker, VP of Commercial Division

Hilliker brings years of management, operations and budgeting experience to Sun Valley Solar Solutions, and has travelled all over the world serving in positions as varied as global director of office operations to corporate director of procurement and facilities.

His acumen in facilities management, finance and operations has allowed him to secure very large, visible solar contracts with the State of Arizona, APS, Jewish Community Center, Desert Ridge Marketplace, Papago Military Base, St. Mary’s Food Bank, DL Withers Construction and many other commercial entities.

Curt’s fascination with solar started when he moved to sunny Arizona, and he notes that his childhood spent in a small farming village in cloudy, cold, central Michigan may have contributed to this.  His AZ home is powered by a solar system with battery backup; his bills went from $400-$500 on average to $20-$30 per month.  He drives a Chevy VOLT, has a solar briefcase that charges his phone, camera and iPad — and he is quick to point out that he has a solar powered calculator that he’s had since college and it’s worked great for decades!

In his spare time Curt likes to barbecue with family & friends, jet ski, camp, do home improvement projects and cook.  He went to culinary school in Switzerland and has visited 44 of the 50 states and 25 countries.

Darcy White, Business Development Operations Manager, Commercial Group

Darcy grew up in New Hampshire, and after receiving her B.A. degree in Business Administration/Marketing from Lasell College, held various positions of increasing responsibility for Boston, Massachusetts organizations, including hotels, accounting, consulting and law firms.

Most recently, she was senior project manager for another Phoenix, AZ solar installation company, where she assisted in securing contracts from the State of Arizona, APS, Jewish Community Center, Desert Ridge Marketplace, Papago Military Base, St. Mary’s Food bank, DL Withers Construction and many other commercial entities. Her favorite thing about working in the solar industry is working with customers and saving them money.

Darcy loves living in Arizona where she can wear flip flops 365 days a year. She enjoys making jewelry and relaxing by her pool in her spare time.

Sun Valley Solar Solutions is a proud veteran-owned business

If you’d like to become part of our team, check out our careers page